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Mediate shooting for 2nd Champions victory in Mississippi

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:56 p.m.

SAUCIER, Miss. — Fred Couples returns this week to defend his title at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, and he'll have plenty of competition.

This year's field includes Champions Tour rookies Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington and Bart Bryant, along with several others who have had success at Fallen Oak in the recent past, including perennial contenders Jeff Sluman and David Frost.

The three-round tournament starts Friday.

Frost and Mediate already have victories this season. Mediate became just the 16th player in Champions Tour history to win in his debut, at the Allianz Championship in February. The two are in the same threesome for Friday's first round.

Mediate, a Greensburg native, said he hopes Frost's presence will inspire a quick start.

The 50-year-old said one of the biggest adjustments in switching from the PGA Tour to the Champions Tour is events have just three rounds instead of four.

“If the pedal is not down on Friday, you will not win the golf tournament, period. You will not even do well in the golf tournament,” Mediate said.

“You have to be ready to go. ... You've got to come out firing fast.”

Mediate is sure to be a crowd favorite at Fallen Oak. The affable veteran is a six-time PGA Tour winner but may be best known for losing on the first sudden-death hole after an 18-hole playoff against Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

The weather may make Fallen Oak play more difficult this weekend. The forecast calls for bouts of rain and wind, especially Friday and Saturday.

Mediate said the course was in very good condition during Wednesday's practice round and had heard good — and honest — reviews of the 7,054-yard Fallen Oak coming into the week.

“It's one of our (tour's) hardest and one of our longest, so I'm intrigued by that,” Mediate said.

Couples won the tournament last year after making a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to break a tie with Michael Allen.

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