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Couples stays on top from get-go

Monday, April 12, 2010

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Fred Couples, the sockless and ageless one, will look back at his 26th Masters Tournament and not shake his head over what could have been on Sunday.

After being the leader going into the second round Friday, 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples shot 2-under-par 70 for a sixth-place finish. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

The 50-year-old Couples, hearing encouragement throughout his 18 holes in loud doses from fans, finished off his successful week shooting a solid 2-under-par 70 to place sixth.

The 1992 Masters champion put his name at the top of the leaderboard from the get-go Thursday with a 66, while wearing no socks with his tennis shoes.

"This was really four good days and a really bad finish on Friday afternoon the last few holes," Couples said. "But other than that, it was fun.

"On that first day, leading Augusta at 50 and shooting 66, that stood out. The chip-in (Saturday) on 15 and getting that roar (also stood out)."

Because of Couples' strength off the tee Sunday -- he hit 11 of 14 fairways -- and strong iron play, he made six birdies.

Couples moved to 10-under with a birdie at No. 9, but his bid to challenge leader Phil Mickelson turned sour at No. 12. He was five back when disaster struck at the par-3, 155-yard hole.

"I figured that with an 8-iron I could go right for the pin on No. 12," Couples said. "Knowing I was five behind Phil at the time, I had to try something. I just didn't hit it very good, and it just didn't carry. It was a not a good shot."

Unlike his tee shot on the 12th when he won 18 years ago -- the ball stayed up on the green's bank and didn't roll into Rae's Creek -- this time it found the water.

The double bogey put him back to 7 under for the tournament, ending his chances of winning another green jacket. To his credit, he birdied 13, 14 and 17 to finish at 9 under.

"I have a game that's suited to this course, and what this means right now is I'm really disappointed in just a few shots," Couples said. "But at the same time I'm glad to finish it out. This is my all-time favorite spot."

Couples was part the weekend's "old man brigade," joining 60-year-old Tom Watson among the leaders.

Watson opened with 67 on Thursday and finished in a tie for 18th at 1 under, shooting 287. He shot 74, 73 and 73 after his opening day.

Watson got a standing ovation from the crowd around No. 18 as he walked up and one fan yelled: "Tom, you are an inspiration to all us old guys."

"I had one good round and three rounds that were just average," Watson said.

"But again, I'm happy to be here at 60 years old playing in Augusta National, the Masters and having my son (Michael) caddie for me is the experience of a lifetime.

"It's a wonderful feeling to have people treat me like they do."

Hole by hole - Fred Couples

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