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By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Couples wakes up the echoes at Augusta
Fred Couples has already stated this will be in his final PGA Tour start of the year.
Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - In a rare show of emotion, Fred Couples gave a double fist pump after sinking his par putt on No. 18 Friday at the Masters.

The closing par capped a round of five-under 67 that included seven birdies to go along with a pair of bogeys on the front nine.

"It's a little bizarre," Couples said in a televised interview of what it's like to see his name atop the leaderboard.

Couples' show of emotion on the 18th green tells you just how much he cares about the Masters. He may seem like the most laid back person in golf, but the passion burns inside.

"Coming in, people were asking how are you going to do, and I said I really want to be competitive," Couples said in a TV interview. "This is really my favorite place in the world to play."

The 52-year-old is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his victory at Augusta. As fate would have it, Couples also fired a 67 in the second round that year en route to victory.

Couples has already stated this will be in his final PGA Tour start of the year and that he'll focus solely on the Champions Tour for the remainder of the season.

His other two starts were at a pair of his other favorite venues - Riviera for the Northern Trust Open and in Texas for the Houston Open. Couples graduated from the University of Houston, and his title there in 2003 stands as his final PGA Tour victory.

He did struggle in his other two PGA events, missing the cut at Riviera and sharing 47th in Houston.

However, Couples has had a strong start to his season on the Champions Tour. He has finished in the top 11 in all three starts, including a win two weeks ago at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Couples has long battled a bad back, but after a solid warm-up session, he was ready to go.

"On the range today, I felt like my body was tightening a little bit because it was cold and we were in Houston last week and it was so warm, and I just kind of nonchalantly told my teacher, 'I just want to hit it solid today.' And I did that," he said.

Couples posted similar rounds last year when he opened 71-68. He went one-over on the weekend to end in a share of 15th.

On this day, he was even-par through six holes with two bogeys and back-to- back birdies at the third and fourth. Couples started to make his charge with a 15-foot birdie putt on the seventh.

He followed with his second birdie in two days at the eighth, then made it three in a row with a 30-foot birdie effort on No. 9. Couples parred five in a row around the turn before birdies on 15 and 16 got him to minus-five.

Couples was five-under after 36 holes last year, and in 1998 when he shared second with David Duval, one stroke behind winner Mark O'Meara.

The only time Couples was better than minus-five after two rounds was in 1992. He was eight-under after two days and went five-under on the weekend to win by two strokes over Raymond Floyd.

Couples would easily become the oldest winner ever if he could earn his second green jacket. The year Jack Nicklaus set the record for oldest winner, 1986, Couples shared 31st place in his fourth appearance at this event.

Now in his 28th trip around Augusta National, Couples will likely play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round. The duo might be the most laid back pair in the history of golf.

One thing is for sure -- they'll both be trying to beat the other, but Couples will have more than 25 years of knowledge on his side.


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