Couples shows the old guy has still got it – again

Fred Couples is a contender to become the oldest man to ever win

a major.

Prior to Saturday’s round, Couples was twisting one way, then

the other, wincing as he tried to loosen up his aching back. It’s

moments like this that make the 50-year-old feel twice his age.

Get him to the Masters, however, and he plays like he’s half his

age.

Four years after playing in the final group, Couples is lurking

again at Augusta National. His 4-under 68 on Saturday puts him five

strokes behind leader Lee Westwood and four behind Phil Mickelson –

pretty good for a guy more accustomed to tearing up the Champions

Tour these days.

“I know time flies, but (Sunday) I have a shot,” Couples said.

“I’m way behind, but I’ve heard other people talk about it, so I

might as well say the same thing. If I can shoot a low score, I

maybe can post a score and see what happens.”

A few more shots like he had on 14 and 15 would help.

He put his approach shot to about 3 feet on 14 and tapped in for

a birdie. As he left the 15th tee, Couples motioned to Mickelson,

playing in the group behind him, to get it going. Mickelson

responded by holing out from the 14th fairway for an eagle.

“I wanted that golf ball that he holed in at 14. That’s what I

wanted,” Couples said. “He couldn’t hear me, but I wanted that

eagle ball.”

Instead, he got one of his own.

He flew the green with his second shot on the par-5 15th,

leaving him at least 30 feet to the hole. He made a perfect chip

and the ball rolled straight at the hole, the noise level rising

the closer the ball got to the cup. When it rolled in, the crowd

roared and Couples shook his fist.

Fans in all three grandstands around 15 gave him a standing

ovation, and Couples took off his hat and waved.

“I just love this place,” he said. “I have a shot (Sunday) if

I can shoot a crazy score.”

Kenny Perry was two holes away from breaking Nicklaus’ record as

the oldest winner at Augusta National last year. Tom Watson gave

fans of all ages a real treat at the British Open at Turnberry,

leading much of the tournament before faltering on the final hole

and playoff.

“I picked (Couples) and Westwood this week,” Watson said. “I

like the way Couples is playing.”

Augusta does have a way of bringing out Couples’ best – no

matter what his age. He won here in 1992 and has nine other top 10

finishes, including a tie for third in 2006.

Two years later, Couples missed the cut at Augusta National,

ending the record streak he shares with Gary Player at 23

consecutive cuts made.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I missed the cut the last two

years and I went away pretty frustrated because I played pretty

well,” Couples said.

When Nicklaus won in 1986, he shot a 30 on the back nine.

Couples doesn’t think he has to match that. But with Westwood,

Mickelson and that guy named Tiger Woods all in front of him, he

knows he’ll have to go low to have any hope of catching them.

“They’re not going to shoot much over par. I need 65 or 66 to

get in,” Couples said. “It would be a miracle, but we’ll

see.”