April 08, 2011
In 1986, Augusta National was a different golf course. Unlike some of the lengthier golf courses on tour, Augusta wasn't one that needed extreme length off the tee. Knowledge of the greens, and understanding where to miss golf shots, was way more important at the Masters. That's why a 46-year-old like Jack Nicklaus had a chance to win.
This 2011 Augusta isn't the same. It isn't supposed to allow 51-year-old men with bad backs to get around the golf course, but that's where we must explain something; Fred Couples isn't your typical over-50 golfer. Routinely he out-drives the younger members of his group, and for some reason, when Couples arrives at Augusta, things change for him. He isn't Champions Tour Fred Couples anymore, this is a guy that can compete here, and possibly win.
[Related: Tiger roars into contention]
On Friday, Couples put together a brilliant four-under 68 that included just one bogey, and has him in the hunt for the second straight year at five-under for the championship. Couples might not have won a PGA Tour event since 2003, but here, at this golf course, the clock is turned back. In 2004 he finished tied for sixth. Two years later, as Phil Mickelson was snagging his second green jacket, Freddie tied for third. And then there was 2010, when Couples opened with 66 to lead the whole thing, and finished sixth alone.
Can his back hold up at Augusta for 72 holes? No, probably not. We don't expect to see Couples with a putt to win another major, but it's wonderful when he's in the mix, and he gives everyone someone to pull for over the weekend.
On the 25th anniversary of Nicklaus' historic win at 46, it would only make sense to have another senior near the top on Sunday. Let's just hope Couples gets a good back massage before Saturday's round.