DULUTH, Ga. (AP) -- Phil Mickelson is getting in one last tuneup before the Masters. Steve Elkington wants to show he was worthy of an invitation, too.
Elkington, who hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 1999, opened the BellSouth Classic with an 8-under-par 64 -- a score that was even more impressive considering he had a double-bogey.
"Today was a real good building block for me," the Aussie said after Thursday's round. "I have some good rounds this year, but I just haven't been able to put things together for four days."
Mickelson was one stroke behind the leader at 65, looking for a strong performance heading into the first major of the year at Augusta National.
"I wouldn't put too much stock in the outcome this week," Mickelson said. "But I would say that players who are hitting the right shots here effectively will have a much easier time next week."
No matter how well Elkington plays on the sprawling TPC at Sugarloaf course, he won't be making the two-hour drive to Augusta. The qualifying period ended March 11, and the Masters no longer takes everyone who won a tournament the previous year.
Elkington, who has endured injuries the last two years, will miss Augusta for the second year in a row after playing 10 straight times.
"To me, it's real strange that this week here means nothing for next week," he said.
Elkington started the tournament with back-to-back birdies. He then ran into serious trouble at No. 3, a short, downhill par-4 that was only the 12th-toughest hole of the day.
Elkington drove into a bunker, and his first attempt to get out of the sand caught the lip and rolled back in. He wound up taking 6.
Instead of folding, Elkington bounced back with four straight birdies, using long drives and precise iron shots to set up short putts.
Mickelson sneaked in a visit Wednesday to the University of Georgia, where the chipping and putting greens mirror Augusta's lightning-quick conditions.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.