‘I can compete with myself’: At 63 years old, Fred Couples just made Masters history

fred couples profile shot masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — On Monday, Fred Couples arrived at the Masters to bad news. Augusta National’s 13th hole — a par-5 that already tested both his length and his will — had been made even longer.

When Couples joined Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Tom Kim on the 13th during their practice round, the bad news turned to very bad news. The three golfers — each his junior by varying degrees — blew their drives right past Couples, some by as many as 40 yards.

“Well, if I were 30, I’d probably be excited about it,” Couples said with a grin about the 13th. “At 63, I think it’s an incredible hole. I won’t go for it. I don’t know how I can. But it ain’t about me.”

Monday wasn’t about him, but Saturday morning was.

After two Masters rounds, six birdies (one on the lengthened 13th) and a steady charge up the leaderboard, Couples had made the cut at Augusta National. At 63 years, six months and five days old, he was the oldest golfer ever to do so, edging Bernhard Langer’s 2020 mark by about 4 months.

“There really isn’t a secret. Everyone loves this place,” he said afterward. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to play well. If I hit it really solid, I’m a good iron player.”

It wasn’t always pretty. There was a “butchering” on the 13th that resulted in an ugly bogey. And another on the 17th late on Friday. The horn blew on his tee shot into the beastly 18th, leaving 230 yards (fairway wood distance for Couples) and a prayer up the hill when he returned on a rainy Saturday morning.

But the benefit of having played in so many Masters is that Couples knew how to manage the hole to land inside the cutline. When he returned on Saturday, he did exactly that.

“All night long, I thought just make a 5,” Couples said. “I wasn’t even thinking about a 4, and I made a 5. It’s probably the best I could have done unless something crazy happened.”

Now, he enters the weekend at the 2023 Masters, some 30 years after the victory that defined his career here. He will start the third round at one over, 13 strokes off the lead set by Brooks Koepka. With the temperature dropping and the winds picking up, one over could be as good as it gets.

“Now, this afternoon in this weather, I mean, my little green ball may be a third up,” he said with a laugh. “I may have a wood into No. 1, but I got to figure it out.”

And figure it out, he will. That might not result in spending Sunday in Masters contention, but it might not have to.

“You compete with Bernhard [Langer] all year long on the Champions Tour,” Couples said. “He’s probably been the best player for eight or nine years. He’s phenomenal. I feel like here I can compete with myself to make the cut. I can’t compete with Viktor Hovland or Jon Rahm or anybody, but I can compete with myself, and that’s really why I come. That’s what I like to do is make the cut here at an older age.”

At 63, Fred Couples is competing with himself. So far, he’s winning.

Exit mobile version