He’s a 54-year-old golf Hall of Famer. He’s got nearly as many creaks and aches in his back and knees as he has trophies on his mantle. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering. He’s not supposed to be competitive in majors anymore.
Yet somehow, Freddy Couples has found something at Augusta National that has him playing like he’s in his twenties again, and it’s one of the best things about the Masters Tournament in recent years.
Really, it’s almost expected at this point. For the fifth consecutive year, Couples posted a red number in Thursday’s opening round, and at one under par, he’s only three shots off the pace set by leader Bill Haas. The guy affectionately referred to as “Boom Boom” is still the epitome of cool here, and he got a huge ovation (by respectful Augusta standards, of course) as he came to the 18th green.
Sure, plenty of patrons are just happy to see one of the game’s legends, the man who won the green jacket in 1992 and captained the American team to three straight President’s Cup victories. But what makes the story more incredible is that Couples isn’t just here for fun. He’s here because he thinks he can still win.
I know I can’t be alone here, but I think he can, too. Certainly the grind of four days of top-level golf on the hilly terrain of Augusta National takes its toll, and Couples has fallen off the pace with just one poor round in three of the last four years. He knows his way around the course as well as anybody, and with as much as he’s been in contention, it’s not about whether he can handle the pressure of the situation.
The competition at the top of the leaderboard is elite, to be sure, but there’s just something about the way Couples approaches the Masters that makes me think he’ll be somewhere in the mix on Sunday afternoon.