Father Time has changed Fred Couples over the years. He's given him a bad back, salt-and-pepper hair and a few more wrinkles, but no matter how hard he's tried, he still hasn't found a way to slow Couples' golf game when he steps on the grounds at Augusta National.
The iconic course has been a fountain of youth for Couples over the years. Even at the age of 52, he's found a way to hang with the bombers and the twentysomethings every April, using his local knowledge from almost 30 years spent playing in the tournament (his first Masters start came in 1983) to find a way into the mix on the weekend.
And like a finely tuned clock, he's doing it again this year, firing a 5-under 67 on Friday to grab a share of the lead after two rounds. We're used to seeing incredible storylines at the Masters, but the shot of Couples' name at the top of the Masters leaderboard going into the weekend is the kind of story that makes you shake your head and smile.
Forget Tiger, Rory and Westwood, the most incredible storyline at the moment is a 52-year-old former champ with a questionable back leading the Masters. Seriously, you can't make these stories up sometimes.
It's been 20 years (he won his first and only in 1992) since Couples last slipped on a green jacket, but his play on Friday made you believe he could make a serious run at another this weekend after a near-flawless round that included back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th and one of the best up-and-downs of the week from just short of the green on the 18th hole.
There's no doubting Couples is in rare form this week, and with the temperatures expected to be in the mid-70s this weekend, keeping his back loose shouldn't be an issue. At this point, it's all on Couples to find a way to keep it going on the weekend with a stacked leaderboard full of youngsters nipping at his heels.
He certainly has the game, and the history, to hang with the field over the next two days. Of players with 100 or more rounds at Augusta National, Couples has the lowest scoring average of anyone in tournament history at 71.90. The guy eat, sleeps and breathes the Masters.
When you have that kind of love and respect for a tournament, good things usually happen. That seems to be the case again this year for Fred Couples.
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