Moore, whose best finish at Augusta National is a tie for 13th in 2005 while still an amateur, believes he is capable of winning this week.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Good news for Puyallup’s Ryan Moore. Bad news for family and friends trying to follow him at the Masters.

That was Moore’s reaction to being paired with Rory McIlroy (winner of the past two majors and the world’s top-ranked player) and Phil Mickelson (who has won the event three times) for Thursday’s and Friday’s rounds at Augusta National.

“That was not the pairing I was expecting, but it’s great,” Moore said. “It’s an awesome pairing. I enjoy playing with both of them. I’ve played with both of them a lot of times, and it will be fun.”

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Moore’s group will tee off at 7:41 a.m. Pacific time, and with Tiger Woods not set to tee off until a few hours later, it undoubtedly will have the largest crowds for much of the day.

“It certainly makes it harder for my friends and family spectating, but it’s great for me,” Moore said. “It’s great to have big crowds cheering you on and appreciating it when you hit good shots.”

Pairings are not random, so it was a sign of respect for Moore to be paired with the two superstars.

“I guess so,” Moore said, then joked, “I don’t know if it’s because my name is an M name as well. Actually, I have no idea how they do their pairings, but it’s pretty cool.”

More likely it had to do with the fact Moore is ranked 11th in the Fed Ex Cup standings, already has a win this season (he won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia for the second time in November), and has been in contention in several events. Three weeks ago, he was the third-round leader in the Valspar Championship before fading late to finish fifth.

“I like where my game is at,” said Moore, 32, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour. “I’ve been working on the same thing, just trying to put it all together. It’s been close all year, and this would a great week for it to all work.”

Moore, whose best finish here is a tie for 13th in 2005 while still an amateur, believes he is capable of winning this week.

“Absolutely, I can,” he said. “I have to hit the ball really good, and I have to putt well. There are so many factors that go into shooting good scores and to win a golf tournament. But on this course you have to score well on the par 5s, and you have to drive the ball well and keep it in play. But in the end, you have to putt well. That’s what matters.

“And I am rolling it well right now. I like how I am putting.”

Couples to make 31st Masters start

Seattle native Fred Couples, 55, had his greatest victory in this event in 1992 and makes it no secret that it’s the tournament he looks forward to the most each year.

And no wonder. He has made the cut in 28 of 30 appearances here and has remained a prominent figure in the event in his 50s. He has been in early contention the past five years, being no worse than ninth after the second round in that span. He led after the first round in 2010 and finished sixth. He was leading after the second round in 2012 and finished 12th.

Couples competed in Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest, then was headed to the course for his first round of practice.

“I hope so,” Couples said, when asked if he could contend again. “I haven’t been able to play the course yet because my back has been a little south, but my goal is to play well until I can’t do it anymore, and if it’s this year I will have to figure it out. But I still feel if I putt well and do things well, I will be fine. I’ve been here long enough and I’ve seen it all, so it won’t faze me, but I have to play well.

“I can’t play mediocre golf and compete with these guys. They play every week and are way better, but I have local knowledge and I still have length. I just feel like I know the course.”

Notes

• Kevin Streelman won the Par 3 Contest, beating Camilo Villegas in a three-hole playoff after both finished at 5 under. The day’s highlight was a hole-in-one on the fourth hole by Jack Nicklaus, 75. Villegas had aces on the fourth and eighth holes to become only the third player to have two in the same year.