Augusta diary: Age no barrier for Fred Couples
History might teach us that Augusta National is no country for old men, but 54-year-old Fred Couples made a mockery of the fact that no player over 40 has won the Masters since 1998, with a beautifully composed round of 71 to sustain his extraordinary record at this tournament.
Since turning 50, Couples, the 1992 champion, who is now more of a fixture on the senior circuit, has managed to finish inside the top 20 at Augusta every year. With the languid swing and deceptive power that has earned him the nickname 'Boom Boom,' he looks primed to continue that remarkable sequence.
Across a span of 29 Masters and 113 rounds here, Couples has missed the cut just twice. Resplendent in a green jumper that matched his verdant surroundings, he was in his natural habitat once more, surging into early contention with a front nine of 34 before a rare mistake at the 12th – where he landed in a greenside bunker and found his escape route blocked by an overhanging branch – took him back to one-under-par.
Plainly, he did not intend his 30th appearance to be any kind of ceremonial affair.
In regular competition he might have slid into obscurity, sinking down to 521st in the world rankings, but the annual drive up Magnolia Lane still energises him like nothing else.
GOLDEN BEAR'S LONG WAIT
Jack Nicklaus did not get his own Green Jacket until 1998, by which time he had won all six of his Masters titles, the first coming in 1963.
"They didn't know who was going to win, so they put a 46 long on me. I'm a 43 regular. It looked like an overcoat," he said. "When I came back next year, there was no mention about getting a Green Jacket.
"There was a jacket that was put in my locker, Tom Dewey's, a former governor of New York. So I put that on, and I won a few more Masters and kept putting Tom Dewey's on."
CARTER CATCHES THE START
All Black legend Dan Carter was up early to watch the ceremonial tee-off. Carter, a 14-handicapper, is making his Masters debut as a guest of Augusta National member and fellow Kiwi Craig Heatley.
GRAND DANISH BACKS RORY
A golf fan has put £1,000 on Rory McIlroy to win the Masters after he reckoned he saw the Northern Irishman's face embedded in the crust of his Danish pastry.
Rob Price, a 27-year-old college lecturer from Andover, said: "I was going to put some money on Rory to win the Masters this year anyway, but I'm pretty superstitious, so when this happened I decided to go big."