Fred Couples, the U.S. Presidents Cup captain, makes a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th hole Thursday during the first round of the Memorial Tournament.
Photo by Pete Souza/White House
Presidents Cup Captains Fred Couples (United States) and Nick Price (International) made a White House visit on Tuesday and met with President Barack Obama, the honorary chairman of The Presidents Cup. Click here for the full story
Watch an emotional Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie and Ken Schofield give their acceptance speeches at Monday night's world Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Click here to see Jim Nantz's tribute to Fred Couples.
Click here to see Nantz's tribute to Ken Venturi.
Click here to see David Fay's tribute to Ken Schofield.
Click here to see PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem's speech.
Click here to read about all the excitement and emotion on Monday night.
Fred Couples en route to a closing 1-under 71 on Sunday (Redington/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. – For Fred Couples, it was one of those coulda, woulda, shoulda weeks.
Two steps forward, three back. Opening 68, third-round 77. A closing birdie -- with the requisite Freddie roar -- on the 72nd hole.
Line up his scorecards for four days and it’s a collage of circles (birdies), squares (bogeys), double squares (double and triple bogeys).
Take away that 77, and the 1992 Masters champ would have been in Sunday's mix for another Green Jacket. Instead, the man who is the essence of cool had to settle for a couple of big putts, a closing 71 and, just maybe at the end of the day, another top 10.
"I played well today," Couples said. "I really didn't do much. I birdied 15 and 18 to get to 1‑under.
"I played with Jason (Dufner), we didn't make any putts and we were both right around the hole. But I had a good time. He's a great player and I played last year Saturday and Sunday with him and it's the same thing as last year, I played terrible on Saturday and then yesterday the finish was, I just told him there, I don't know if I've ever really finished like that in a tournament in my life, the way some of these shots I hit. I couldn't even chip balls out of the trees with any feel.
"But it is what it is and I was not in a great mood yesterday, because if I just would have finished halfway, I could have come out today with a shot at winning. And today was just really another fun day at Augusta."
Couples is a staple here. Even his so-so weeks seemed to be filled with a bit of excitement. Take this week. He opened with a 68 and had everyone wondering -- once again -- could Freddie, at 53, be a factor? After all, the previous three years, he has finished sixth, T-15 and T-12.
"Well, I can play the course," Couples said. "So even yesterday wasn't great, I bogeyed 14 with a wedge, I laid up on 16 and I couldn't even roll it under the trees. I bogeyed there and made a 7 there. If I just do what's normal for everybody, maybe I play those holes 2‑over and I'm 3‑under instead of even par. But it didn't happen that way. ...
"I know how to play the course. I just played for about 40 minutes like a 7 handicap."
Fred Couples continues his love affair with Augusta National.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Couples has now played in 29 Masters. But he had never come in on Sunday to get in some extra practice for the season's first major.
Until this week, that is. And Couples' work with his long-time instructor Paul Marchand that day is paying plenty of dividends at the midway point of the 77th Masters.
Couples opened with a 68 on a Thursday when Augusta National was being particularly generous and he gutted out a 71 in the second round that left him in a tie for the lead. He also held the lead a year ago at the same juncture but ended up tied for 12th.
Couples will be 53 years, 6 months, and 11 days old on Sunday and with a win would eclipse Sam Snead as the oldest winner in PGA TOUR history. Snead, who like Couples is a former Masters champ, was 52 years, 10 months and 8 days when he won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1965.
Of course, two rounds remain on a course that is as grueling mentally as it is challenging physically. Couples, who says he doesn't expect his chronically cranky back to be a problem, shot 75 in the third round a year ago and tumbled to 11th so he knows better than to get ahead of himself.
"I would like to, you know, have another run," Couples acknowledged. "As I said last year, both Jason (Dufner) and I, we struggled right off the bat and we really were a non-factor on Saturday and that was not really much fun. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little different and I will play well and have a shot at Sunday. I mean, that's my goal.
"But it is hard. I'm not going to kid you. I mean, it's a hard course. I'm really tired. I'm swinging hard at every drive I hit; there's only ten or 12 of them. But the 53 and all the practice, I've never been here on a Sunday in all the years, not one time, but I came in on Sunday because I was just playing so poorly."
Marchand walked inside the ropes with Couples that afternoon -- standing inches from his long-time friend and saying "do this, and it was a little bit of a blessing," Couples recalled. He got his student to stand more upright to generate more clubhead speed.
"I did tee off Thursday with the idea of playing well, and now it's Friday afternoon late, I mean, I'm surprised, but I'm not like, you know, going to freak out over it," Couples said. " ... I kept working with (Paul) and hitting balls and played a few holes. I got better fast. I'm hoping it keeps going tomorrow and Sunday."
Couples said the catalyst in Friday's second round was a two-putt birdie from 100 feet at the eighth hole after he had "butchered" No. 7 by missing the green not once but twice on the way to a double bogey. The birdie, though, was "kind of like a sigh of relief," Couples said. "From then on, I played really, really well."
Through two rounds, Couples has hit 75 percent of the fairways and 61 percent of his greens in regulation. He's putting well, too, with just 25 on Thursday and 28 in the second round. The U.S. Presidents Cup captain has yet to three-putt.
So can he keep it up? Don't bet against it. Couples has 11 career top-10s at the Masters and has finished 15th or better each of the last three years.
"The last two days, I've driven the ball nicely, and so it seems like the same old course for me," Couples said. "So then you get into, am I good enough to play four good rounds in a row on a course like this? It didn't happen last year. I was 4 over pretty fast on Saturday, which was a real bummer."
Couples joked he would retire last year if he had won the Masters. Although no one wants to see golf's king of cool put his clubs in the closet permanently imagine what a story that would be.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The first round of the Masters always provides plenty of entertainment and storylines, and Thursday was no exception.
Whether it was 53-year-old Fred Couples turning back the clock (again), or 14-year-old Tianlang Guan shooting 73, or Sergio Garcia grabbing a share of the lead at a place where a year ago he said he didn't have it in him to win a major, there was a lot to soak up.
Friday, however, is more serious with players positioning for the weekend. With that in mind, here are a few groups to keep an eye on in the morning wave.
Tianlang Guan, Ben Crenshaw, Matteo Manassero, 9:06 a.m.: "Very, very impressive" is how Crenshaw described the teenager's performance in the opening round. A former phenom himself, that's not hyperbole from the former Masters champ. Guan had the best score of the six amateurs in the field and now has a chance to make it to the weekend.
Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, 9:39 a.m.: Garcia shot 66 in the opening round, matching his career low here, and recorded his first bogey-free round here since 2002. It's the first time he's led after any round of the Masters; now the question is can he keep it going? He's 1-for-9 in his career in converting first-round leads into wins on the PGA TOUR.
Dustin Johnson, Fred Couples, Branden Grace, 9:50 a.m.: Johnson said Thursday that Augusta National suits his eye. It looked like it. He shot 67 and is one off the lead entering the second round. The key for him: Putting. Johnson took just 26 putts in the first round. Meanwhile, for all of Couples' success here, Thursday was just the fifth time he's cracked 70 in the opening round. That bodes well for him the rest of week -- he has 11 career top 10s here and in each of the last three years has finished in the top 15. He always feels ageless here and fed off Johnson, a sort of younger version of himself. There's no reason to think he can't again.
Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, 10:23 a.m.: Mickelson admitted to being too "tentative" in his opening-round 71. Translation: With a wet and soft golf course, and 33 players breaking par in the opening round, Mickelson is going to be very aggressive on Friday.
Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, 10:34 a.m.: McIlroy's opening round was a mess, but he held it together well enough to shoot even par. He'll have to clean up his putting, however, if he's going to get in contention for the weekend. Ditto Bradley, who had 30 putts and an up-and-down day but managed to scrape out a couple of birdies on his way to a 73.
Fred Couples' 68 ties for the second lowest opening round in his Masters career. (How/Getty Images)
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Couples in the mix at the Masters. No surprise there -- even though he is 53 years old.
Couples shot a 4-under 68 in Thursday's first round and is tied for fourth with five other players, two shots behind co-leaders Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman.
Couples actually reached 5 under with a birdie at 17 but gave the stroke back with a bogey at the last. Even so, it was a good start for the 1992 Masters champ, who now plays primarily on the Champions Tour but will play occasionally on the PGA TOUR, including the Masters.
"I'm going to play this tournament until I really don't think I can win," Couples said, echoing a statement made by another veteran Masters champ Vijay Singh.
A year ago, Couples was the second-round co-leader with Jason Dufner before falling back on the weekend. Since turning 50, he has finished sixth (2010), T-15 (2011) and T-12 (2012) and has only missed the cut twice in 28 previous Masters starts.
"I know how to play this course," he said. "... This is a good spot for me. The people get me fired up and they yell hard and they're everywhere."
Couples knows that remaining long off the tee allows him to compete with the younger players at Augusta National. On Thursday, he averaged 301 yards in driving distance -- one of 32 players in the 93-man field who averaged 300 or more yards off the tee. Tiger Woods' average was just a half-yard longer than Couples' average.
"I used my length," Couples said of Thursday's 68, "and tomorrow if I can come out and feel good and pound my driver, it will make tomorrow seem easier too."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Fred Couples isn't used to ultra-early tee times on the Champions Tour, and a year ago at the Northern Trust Open, he didn't respond very well to the corresponding wake-up call.
Couples had opened with a solid 70 that left him just four strokes off the pace. But his 53-year-old body didn't handle that 7:09 a.m. tee time and the 76 Couples shot -- a round "that felt like 100," he said -- resulted in just his third missed cut in 30 starts at his beloved Riviera.
With a 7:22 a.m. date on Thursday, Couples said he planned to get up a lot earlier and have a different routine. Whatever he did worked, too, after Couples fired a 68 that left him in the thick of things again.
"I got it out of the system last year," Couples said of the 76 that was his second-highest score in 111 rounds.
The soon-to-be World Golf Hall of Famer will play at 12:12 p.m. PT (3:12 p.m. ET) on Friday. And with any luck the man who has two top-10 finishes in his last four starts at Riviera will get to sleep in even later on the weekend.
Couples, who started on the back nine, said on Wednesday that when he's playing well he feels like he can walk around Riviera and shoot par or close to it every time. And with the exception of a wedge he dumped into a bunker at No. 11 -- "I just wasn't ready to clip a little shot in there at 7:30 in the morning," he acknowledged -- Couples was in total control in the first round.
"From then on I played very, very well," he said. "Like I said, you've got to go out and play well here. I know there's going to be some good scores. It's irrelevant what everyone else is shooting, but I just want to play well and keep staying under par."
Couples, who hit nine fairways and 12 greens in regulation, joked about how he was hitting 6-irons when his playing partners were hitting two clubs less. But he held his own with Lee Westwood, who also shot 68, and beat Bubba Watson by nine.
"I can figure my way out around this course," Couples said.
And make no mistake, Couples' driver was working. He averaged 293.6 yards off the tee and had four drives in excess of 300 -- including one of 314 that went seven yards further than either of his playing partners and produced a birdie at the par-5 17th.
"I smoked that, yeah," Couples said. "That was good. I knocked it up pin high in two and got it up and down. I did drive it. If you watched yesterday, I was being out driven by my amateur team. And then today, I just felt a little rhythm and started driving it a little firmer and solider, and the ball was going well and I just kept swinging hard."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Riviera Country Club has long been known as Hogan's Alley. If the eras had been reversed, though, Fred Couples' name, rather than Ben Hogan's, might just as easily have been linked forever to this toney course in the Hollywood hills.
After all, Couples has won the Northern Trust Open two times, finished second on three other occasions and has a total of 14 top-10s. The 53-year-old is making his record 31st start this week, missing only 2007 since his 1980 debut, and don't be surprised if he adds to that legacy come Sunday.
After all, he tied for seventh in 2011 after entering the final round one stroke off the lead, and shared third two years earlier, just eight months before his 50th birthday. In fact, Couples has shot under par in 12 of his last 18 rounds at Riviera and 85 of the 111 total have been at par or better.
"This is a fun week because of my age and I really want to play in the tournament," Couples said. "... Northern Trust has been very, very nice to a lot of players, but me especially to give me a spot."
Couples, who once lived a mile away, shot a 1-over 72 in his first competitive round at Riviera and the then 20-year-old went on to tie for 13th in 1980. Asked what he would have thought as a rookie had someone told him he'd be coming back in his third decade, Couples simply smiled.
"I would have probably said, yeah, sure, sure," Couples said. "... In 1981, if you would have said that, would you like to play here several years in a row, I would have said yes; 31, I would laugh."
With its small greens, Riviera reminds Couples of the course he grew up playing in Seattle. The layout favors a shotmaker, too, and Couples has always been one of the TOUR's -- or Champions Tour's -- best iron players.
Couples, who will captain the U.S. Presidents Cup team later this year, made it clear he wouldn't come to Riviera if he didn't feel he could compete. He finished fourth last month in the season-opening event on the Champions Tour and while he admits he could be a tad rusty, Couples' expectations at Riviera are always high.
"I personally think it's one of our top three courses on TOUR, I really do," Couples said. "I think the TPC (Sawgrass) in Jacksonville is up there, and I think Memorial is one of my all time favorite courses. But I put this one amongst those three, and obviously when you pick majors, it's a different story. Augusta is my all time favorite.
"But I've played every year here because I want to play and I enjoy it."
Fred Couples and Nick Price recall a funny story from their playing days on the PGA TOUR. Couples asked Price if he would like to swap caddies before a round, resulting in a classic 'Boom Boom' anecdote.