Fred Couples isn’t concerned about being 57 years old. Not when the Seattle native is shooting a 2-under 70 in the Masters at Augusta National. Couples put himself in contention at the site of his only major championship — which was 25 years ago.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fred Couples isn’t concerned about 57.
Not when the Seattle native is shooting a 2-under-par 70 on another challenging day at Augusta National.
Showing he can still keep up with much younger golfers, Hall of Famer Couples put himself in contention Friday at the site of his only major championship — which was 25 years ago.
Not that it should be surprising to anyone.
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The 57-year-old has been a perennial challenger at the Masters since becoming eligible for the 50-and-older PGA Tour Champions.
Couples led after the opening round in 2010. He was on top at the midway point in 2012. He was second heading to the weekend in 2013.
Now, after sitting out a year ago because of a chronic back issue, he is back in the mix again — three shots off the lead, even as another dose of swirling winds made life miserable for many players in the second round.
Couples and Puyallup’s Ryan Moore (69) were among players tied for sixth place at 1-under 143 for 36 holes.
Rickie Fowler, whose 67 was the best round of the day, was tied for the lead at 4 under with Thomas Pieters (68), Sergio Garcia (69) and first-round leader Charley Hoffman (75).
“I really know the course very well,” Couples said. “I feel like my age is still OK, because I can drive it far enough. I’m not long like I used to be on this kind of course, but it still plays where I can reach a lot of these greens with shorter clubs to make the ball stop around the hole.”
Couples made six birdies, the last at No. 18 to close his round with a flourish.
After a 272-yard drive gave him a peek at the green around the towering Georgia pines, he stuck his approach 2 feet from the flag for a tap-in.
That final hole was especially important, as it came after back-to-back bogeys.
The challenge for Couples is to keep it going through the weekend. Over his last eight Saturday or Sunday rounds at Augusta, he has broken par once. That’s not surprising, as no one older than 46 has won the event.
“I’m not going to be thinking about winning the tournament until Sunday, or the back nine on Sunday,” Couples said. “I’ve got a long way to go before I worry about that.”
Moore, meanwhile, didn’t have a bogey in his round.
“I felt like I could go shoot a couple under and let’s get back to even (par) or kind of get into an interesting place going into the weekend,” Moore was quoted as saying by Golfdigest.com. “I knew it was going to be a tough day, and I bettered that by one. So, all in all, it was a great, successful round of golf and honestly couldn’t play much more solid than I did.”
Kirkland homeowner Kevin Chappell (76) was tied for 19th place at 3 over.
Fowler, Pieters, Garcia and Hoffman formed the largest 36-hole logjam for the lead at Augusta National in 44 years.
The wind began to subside as the pines cast long shadows across the course late in the afternoon, and the forecast is close to perfection for the Saturday and Sunday rounds, with mild temperatures and hardly any wind.
That won’t make it much easier, as surviving the wind gives way to what could be a shootout among some of the sport’s biggest stars.
Fifteen players were separated by a mere five shots going into the weekend. Adam Scott (69), Jordan Spieth (69) and Phil Mickelson (73) were among those at even par, one stroke ahead of Rory McIlroy (73).
“I knew the first two days would be tough. We really needed to make sure we could fight through it and stay in the tournament,” Fowler said. “We’re in a good spot. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
Fowler began his move early by holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the second hole, and even a bogey from the water behind the green on the par-5 15th green didn’t ruin his day. He bounced back with a birdie.
Garcia, playing his 70th consecutive major and still looking for that first victory to define an otherwise strong career, wasn’t the least bit bothered by seeing the wrong score for him on a leaderboard behind the 13th green when a penalty for a lost ball was mistakenly attributed to him. He fired a 3-iron across the water and into the wind to the 15th green for a two-putt birdie.
Pieters made an eagle on the par-5 13th hole.
Hoffman, who shot an opening-round 65, was simply happy to join the other leaders. His four-shot lead was gone in 11 holes, and he steadied himself the rest of the way to limit the damage.
Hoffman will be in the final group going into the weekend at the Masters for the second time in three years, with one big difference. Two years ago, Hoffman was five shots behind Spieth in what turned out to be a runaway for the young Texan.
This time, the Masters appears to be up for grabs.
The last time there was a four-way tie for the lead at the halfway point of the Masters was in 1973, when Bob Dickson, Gay Brewer, J.C. Snead and Tommy Aaron were tied at 3-under 141. Aaron went on to claim his only green jacket.
Hoffman ran off five bogeys in a six-hole stretch, including a three-putt from 4 feet at the par-5 eighth. His lead was gone when he sprayed another tee shot into the trees at No. 11. He played 1 under the rest of the way.
Mickelson, 46, was one shot behind until he sputtered down the stretch with three bogeys and two par saves over his last five holes.
Defending champion Danny Willett and two-time champ Bubba Watson were among those missing the cut.