Augusta booming early thanks to Couples

Fred Couples of the US tees off on the fourth hole during the second round of the 76th Masters golf...

Fred Couples of the US tees off on the fourth hole during the second round of the 76th Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2012 at in Augusta, Georgia. (AFP/Robyn Beck)

Jon McCarthy, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 PM ET

Augusta National was booming early Friday thanks to Fred Couples.

The 52-year-old continued his career-long love affair with the Masters Friday, where he won in 1992, shooting a sizzling 67 to head into the weekend in a tie for the lead with Jason Dufner at 5-under par.

Couples had seven birdies, two bogeys and received easily the loudest roars of the day from the gallery.

After a week marked by storms and heavy rain, Friday started out cold, windy and overcast. Around lunc-hour the sun broke through and stayed for the rest of the day.

“Five-under was an incredible round, a very, very good round,” Couples said.

The surprise leader said he noticed big-name players such as Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were making a charge while he was finishing his round Friday.

“For me to be a part of it, it’s really amazing,” he said. “I’m very thrilled with the way I played today.”

Couples’ play impressed some of his competitors.

“He’s amazing,” Garcia said. “He always manages to do it.”

Garcia also managed to do it on Friday, carding a 4-under 68 to sit one back of leaders Couples and Dufner.

The other story of Friday was the poor play of Tiger Woods.

Woods fought his swing, shooting a 3-over 75 and sits 8-shots back of the leaders. After birdieing two of his first three holes, Woods bogeyed holes 4, 6 and 9 to finish his front nine at 1-over par. Frustration set in on his back nine. After missing badly on the par-3 16th, Woods kicked his club before settling for a bogey four.

After saying on Thursday that he had hit some of the worst shots of his life in the first round, Woods’ re-worked swing wasn’t working in his second round. Heading into the weekend Woods need to figure things out fast.

For a while Friday, it looked as though Lee Westwood would be the man everyone was chasing. The Englishman headed to the 18th hole at 6-under par. But like many other players -- including Dufner and Garcia -- Westwood found trouble on the final hole. The world No. 3 double-bogeyed to drop into a tie for third place with Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy at 4-under par.

Westwood played in the morning and found the conditions to be tougher than they were during the first round.

“It’s a lot more breeze, obviously, which makes it play tougher,” he said. “The greens are obviously drying out and getting a bit faster.”

McIlroy shot a solid 69 on Friday and finds himself where many expected to be, right in the hunt. After his round, McIlroy was asked if being in contention is as easy as it looks for him.

“Um, no, I wouldn’t say it’s as easy as it looks, but it’s nice that it looks routine and it’s great to be able to put yourself in position most weeks that you play,” the U.S. Open champ said.

Mickelson desperately needed a low round Friday if he is going to have a chance to win his fourth green jacket. Starting the day at 2-over par, another round like his first would see him out of touch with the leaders.

Mickelson wanted nothing to do with that scenario and shot a 4-under 68 in his second round to prove it.

“I was hoping for one or two more under, but that birdie on 18 felt terrific to finish that way,” he said right after his round. “To be only three back now heading into the weekend feels great, too.”

With the wet conditions on the course there was plenty of talk around Augusta about mud balls.

“It becomes difficult to guess what the ball is going to do because once you have a bad ball it’s a guessing game,” Garcia said.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne said they do not want to go to a lift, clean and place scenario where players are allowed to clean their balls between shots.

There is no more rain in the forecast so the course should continue to dry out. The weekend is supposed to bring chilly mornings and pleasant afternoons.

Canada’s only hope, Mike Weir, blew up in his second round after shooting a respectable even-par on Thursday. He carded a 79 to finish at 7-over par to miss the cut.


Videos

Photos