Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Couples conjures up old magic to give himself a shot at shock victory

FRED Couples rolled back the years with a fine round of 71 to add to his opening round of 68, leaving him right in the mix for Masters glory tomorrow.

Laid back Couples will be seeking to wear the green jacket for the first time since he triumphed 21 years ago.

It doesn't hurt that he seems as comfortable at Augusta National, one of golf's most challenging tests, as he does during a leisurely round at the local club with his buddies. Couples sits at 5 under at the ripe age of 53, finishing his round off with an emphatic birdie on the 18th that brought the patrons to their feet for an unmistakable Masters roar.

"It was a hard course out there," Couples (far right) told reporters.

"I felt very good about what I shot – I had a couple of little hiccups out there but the golf course is winning today. For me personally, it was great to hit two good shots and make that putt on 18."

For his career, Couples has 10 top-10 finishes at Augusta, including 1992, when he left the grounds with a green jacket. The question now is if he keep it going.

"I think for myself, I hit the ball a long way, and I know last year I putted very, very well," Couples said.

"The last two days, I've driven the ball nicely. So it seems like the same old course to me. So, am I good enough to play four rounds in a row on a course like this?

"It didn't happen last year but, you know, when I get to be a certain age and I'm not driving it well enough, then it'll be impossible for me to compete here."

Couples concedes that the next two days won't be easy.

"I'm surprised at where I am on the leaderboard, but I'm not going to freak out over it," he said.

"I'd like to have another run at a victory and hopefully tomorrow, I'll play well, and I'll have a shot at Sunday.

"It's hard – it's a hard course.

"But I'm hoping it keeps going tomorrow and Sunday."

If the magic somehow continues for 36 more holes, we'll be talking about this in much the same way that we refer to what Jack Nicklaus did on these hallowed grounds in 1986.

Meanwhile, Jason Dufner did something memorable during the second round – he showed some emotion.

Dufner, normally as reserved as the pines that line Augusta National's course, pumped his fist after rolling in a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 11. It was one of six birdies that helped him reach 3 under heading into the weekend.

Dufner, an Auburn alum and fan, said if he can also straighten out his drives he'll "be right where he wants to be" as he tries to win his first major.

• SANDY Lyle celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Masters victory by making his first cut at Augusta since 2009 – thanks to a putter he admits resembles a frying pan.

Lyle added a 72 to his opening 73 to comfortably qualify for the final two rounds on one over par, the 55-year-old Scot making four birdies with a massive black putter known as a 'Black Swan'.

"It hasn't turned into an ugly duckling yet, has it?"' joked Lyle, who also has a distinctive pause in his backswing. "I used it at the (Senior) PGA last year and I got lots of grief for it.

"But I finished fourth with it, so I was very happy with it. It could be anything. A frying pan, whatever."

Lyle has finished under par after 72 holes just once at Augusta since 1992, the year Fred Couples won the Green Jacket.

Lyle was asked if he could get into contention for an unlikely second title.

"Oh, I'll cross that bridge when I get near it," he added. "I'm delighted with where I am."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk