Fred Couples joins Tom Watson aboard the Augusta time machine

What year is this, anyway?

Fred Couples, who won The Masters back when George Bush — the first one — was still president and "yahoo!" was something you said when you leaped off a cliff, played an exceptional first round at Augusta that put him at the top of the leaderboard.

It's just the latest charmed chapter in what has to be one of the finest years in Couples' career. He joined the Champions Tour and romped through it like a major-league baseball player beating up on a church-league softball team, winning three of his first four events and placing second in the fourth.

And Thursday, he braved drizzling rain and 30-mph winds to join the most stacked first-day leaderboard in recent memory — Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Lee Westwood and Y.E. Yang, for starters. And he did it all wearing those funky deck shoes that look straight out of a 1980s movie.

It's a Masters truism that fast starts rarely beget fast finishes. If that holds true this year, that'd be a shame indeed, because we've got some serious talent playing extremely well at the best tournament in golf. Could you ask for anything more?

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