|Fred Couples reacts after completing his second round at Augusta on Friday, tied atop the Masters leaderboard. (Reuters)
In a sport where numbers are everything, Fred Couples’ age doesn’t seem to matter.
Every spring, Couples forgets that he plays on the Champions Tour, forgets that he has a bad back, forgets that he’s not supposed to be a front page. All Couples remembers is that he loves the Masters.
“I’ve said it for 28 years, this is my favourite tournament in the world,” the 52-year-old said after going on a birdie-binge Friday heading to the weekend atop the leaderboard. “I feel like I’m very young when I get here.”
Nicknamed Boom Boom for his ability to go deep with the driver, Couples’ gallery quickly grew on Friday as he went from “nice story” to “wow, he’s hot” to “holy crap” to leading the Masters after two rounds.
Couples wore a green sweater on Friday. It’s been 20 years since he received a jacket of the same colour. He’s had several chances to add another to his collection and that is something he thinks about from time to time.
“I wish I would have won it again; I didn’t,” Couples said. “I wish I could have beaten Mark (O’Meara) or Phil (Mickelson) one of those two years; but to win it once was truly amazing.”
Speaking of Mickelson, Couples said he thinks the two of them have a similar secret for success at Augusta National — they fell in love with the place.
The Masters is the highlight of the golf season for both players. They can’t wait to get here, to see old places and old friends. It’s this attitude that allows them to forget about everything other than enjoying themselves.
“I don’t feel too much stress,” Couples said. “Now, obviously there is stress out there. What I’m getting at is, when you’re playing here, I’m not going to let things bother me. It’s so beautiful. You can’t say it’s your favourite place and then break a club on the fourth hole on Saturday.”
One big difference between Mickelson and Couples is how they prepare for the tournament. Mickelson was out re-acquainting himself with the course as soon as possible after playing in last weekend’s Shell Houston Open. He played practice round after practice round. Nobody was ever going to be able to say that Mickelson wasn’t prepared.
Couples, on the other hand, didn’t even check out the big course on Wednesday. He was happy to have some fun on the par-3 course.
“Basically, I feel like I played enough. I didn’t need to wear myself out,” he said. “There’s no reason for me to go play the back nine on Wednesday morning.”
After all these years, Couples’ game plan is locked and loaded.
“I’m going to hook it on the 10th hole and hopefully hit the green and hit the 12th green and all that,” he said. “So I’ve played enough where I want to do just enough work to be prepared and go from there.”
Augusta National is so familiar to Couples, he compares it to a walk in the park. When it’s mentioned to him that he has the lowest scoring average of any player who has played 100 or more rounds at the Masters — even better than Jack Nicklaus — he is quick to point out that the stat is a little misleading.
“I don’t know about the last year he played, but his scores kept going up a little bit and mine will be doing that shortly. But today was not one of those days,” he said.
As for this year, it’s been a great week but obviously all great things must come to an end, right Freddie?
“Can I win? I believe I can, yes.”