AUGUSTA, Ga. - Fred Couples' back could go at any moment. So could his putter.
For at least two rounds of the 75th Masters, however, the 51-year-old Seattle native looked like a man who could win this thing. If he did, he’d become the oldest major champion in history.
On Friday, Couples shot a 4-under-par 68 and was at 139, five strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.
“Could I win?” Couples asked rhetorically. “Of course. Am I looking forward to playing tomorrow? Yeah, you’d better believe it.
“Today was a great round to make it a thrill-seeking Saturday for me. But can I still win? This would be the only (PGA) Tour event that I probably could still win.”
Something happens to Couples when he shows up at Augusta National. Even with his famously creaky back and his sometimes balky putter, age seems to be just a number for him here. He won the Masters in 1992 and has 10 other top-10 finishes here, including a solo sixth-place finish last year at age 50.
“I wait the whole year to come and play here,” he said. “This is my favorite event. I’ve had great luck here. I had a couple other chances to win and didn’t. And I hope to play several more years.”
Couples said he had cortisone injections in his back last week.
A gallery favorite at Augusta National, Couples saunters between shots, twirling a club in his hands, or leans on his putter and stares at things only he can see.
“He’s as cool as he ever was, that’s for sure,” said Steve Stricker, who was paired with Couples for the first two rounds. “We’re just hoping to get a little bit of his aura as we walk behind him.
“He’s an easy guy to be around. He’s just a great guy.”
If Jack Nicklaus’ victory at age 46 in 1986 was unbelievable, what would a victory be by Couples at 51?
“Retiring, is what it would be,” Couples said. “I would be gone. It would be the biggest upset in golf history. So, sure. Are you kidding me?”