Column: Where's the BellSouth? Er, AT&T?

With a quick glance at this week's weather forecast you may think Mother Nature forgot the PGA Tour's BellSouth Classic, now the AT&T Classic, had changed dates.

After weeks of dry weather, a slight chance of rain has been thrown in for the next few days, even a 40 percent chance on Sunday, which would have been the AT&T's final round had it not switched schedule spots. The rain is much needed this year, but usually it isn't.

Foul weather - from rain to fog to snow - has been thrown at our PGA Tour stop for years in its previous position in late April. That's a major reason why tournament officials requested and received a date change starting this year, when the tourney is held May 17-20.

The new date will no doubt bring us nicer weather, hopefully warmer with less rain, but what else will it do to the tournament? That remains to be seen in the next few years.

A pre-Masters date in the past ensured a few positives (weather not being one of them) for the tournament. Phil Mickelson was always going to play the TPC at Sugarloaf to prepare for the next week in Augusta. So were a large crop of the world's top foreign golfers, guys like Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott and Colin Montgomerie. They played here to prep for Augusta as well as the Georgia weather.

A few other things were assumed about the old schedule spot. Tiger Woods is never going to play the week before the Masters, and several other top players shared his philosophy.

Now the Masters isn't following our Duluth tournament, but it's still not an ideal situation. The AT&T falls the week after The Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass, so players may opt for an off week after that popular stop.

The chances of Woods playing here in May are slim. Mickelson already has said the new date doesn't fit well into his schedule. It will be interesting to see what marquee golfers are in the AT&T field this year. Maybe Vijay Singh or Sergio Garcia? I'm sure the amount of foreign participation will dwindle since the tourney's no longer an Augusta warm-up.

Charles Howell is committed to the AT&T, and Davis Love III may be here. Expect to see Chris DiMarco.

You won't see Phil. You probably won't see Tiger. It's no fun to have a tournament where the world's highest ranked golfers don't attend. Maybe we'll be surprised and get a top-notch field for the AT&T.

If we don't, at least the weather should be nice.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.