AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was early Sunday afternoon, more than an hour before the Masters leaders teed off, and the white, hand-run scoreboard near the second hole began to a flash a “3.”
Fred Couples, the 54-year-old former Masters champion, had just made birdie at the par-5 second hole, sparking an echoing roar audible from nearly two holes away. The Seattle native stood at 3 under for the tournament — just 2 strokes behind co-leaders Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth.
Couples’ magic would not last through the day. He finished tied for 20th after shooting a final-round 75, his worst score of the week. But with his fifth straight top-20 finish at Augusta, Couples was part of an over-50 renaissance this week at the 78th Masters.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, 50, finished in sole possession of fourth place at 4-under 284 after shooting a 71 on Sunday, and Bernhard Langer, a 56-year-old two-time Masters champ, shot a final-day 69 and finished tied for eighth at even par.
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“We play here so many times,” said Couples, who won his lone green jacket in 1992. “I know Bernhard just had a great week. … I think that he has probably played this 30 years or more. So you get to know the course, you know the wind, you know how to play it.”
One day earlier, Jimenez had shot a 66, tying the record for the lowest Masters score by someone 50 or older. Ben Hogan shot a 66 in 1967, while a 50-year-old Couples did it in 2010.
It wasn’t exactly new ground for Jimenez, who briefly led the British Open last year before fading in the third round. But Sunday, he had an opportunity to become the oldest Masters winner ever, with a chance to break the record set by 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus in 1986.
While Jimenez couldn’t keep up with Watson, Jimenez still believes a player older than 50 could win the Masters — someday.
“Why not?” said Jimenez, who warmed up Sunday morning with his trademark cigar hanging from his lips. “Fred Couples played nice, Langer played nice, I played nice, too. To win a tournament, you need to hit the ball well, putt good and go play. If you are able and ready to play, you got a chance.”
The top-12 finishers and ties get an automatic invitation to play the Masters next year.
That’s great news for youngsters like Jonas Blixt, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
“When you shoot under par at Augusta National on a Sunday, you should be pretty happy,” Blixt said. He added that he “can’t wait to come back.”
Oliver Goss became the first Australian to finish as the low amateur at the Masters.
Goss, 20, who finished 10 over, was awarded the Silver Cup after his 49th-place finish. The low amateur must make the 36-hole cut to be eligible for the award, which began in 1952.