Apr
8
2017
Boom Boom goes the dynamite: Couples in contention at Masters (again)
By Stephanie Wei under The Masters

Holy crap. I knew I should have quit while I was already behind. Somehow I managed to delete and/or lose the few thousand words I spent crafting as an ode to Fred Couples over the past two-three hours. It really was one of *those* days — I started calling it “Freaky Friday” before noon. Ugh. This hurts so much more than usual because it was about Freddie, my childhood hero and fellow Seattle native. I mean, the first-ever post I published on this site, which started as a Tumblr blog and “hobby” in 2009, was about Couples and how he inspired me to take up golf.

This one hurts. I’ll stop complaining, but if you’ve ever worked on something for hours and put a ton of heart and energy into a project that you felt strongly about and probably dedicated more time than needed — and in my case, too many words, as well — because you just felt like it, then you know that pit in your stomach when you idiotically press the wrong combo of buttons and the screen suddenly becomes blank.

OK, I’m going to sleep and take this gut-wrenching loss as a sign. Perhaps it’s for the best that those 3,000 words dedicated to Freddie, who has been an icon for three decades and exudes the kind cool, chill and laid-back aura that men both young and old strive to replicate. (Spoiler: You can’t.) It was probably beyond the point of nauseating as I gushed over Freddie. But, c’mon, you all love him just as much — he oozes an effortless coolness that overcomes the normal constraints of age, gender, nationality, whatever other random things that are divisive across generations, cultures and borders, etc.

What I wrote in sum: For as long as I’ve been covering golf (not that long), Fred Couples has played his way into contention at some point in the Masters — it seems like it’s usually during the second round. This has truly been my favorite tradition. As I like to say, it’s not Friday at Augusta National until Freddie’s name shows up on the leaderboard. Because of his chronic back problems, he was forced to sit out and miss last year’s Masters. And it simply wasn’t the same without him making his usual appearance and once again defying the natural order of age and keeping up with the young guns.

At age 57, he played masterfully in demanding and extremely windy conditions in the first two rounds at Augusta National. He managed to post one-under at the halfway mark and trails the trio of co-leaders Sergio Garcia, Charley Hoffman and Thomas Pieters by three strokes.

“I have been hitting the ball very solid,” said Couples after shooting two-under 70 Friday. “Really the idea is not to miss many shots. And I didn’t do that for two days. There were a couple of shots that didn’t work out well, and I made bogey. But overall it was a good two days. I really know the course very well. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to have two great days of golf.

“I feel like my age is still okay, because I can drive it far enough. But I’m not long like I used to be on this kind of a course, but it still plays where I can still reach a lot of these greens with shorter clubs to make the ball stop around the hole.”

Seeing Freddie in contention early in the Masters has become a common theme in the past seven or eight years. In 2010 Freddie was the first-round leader. He was also leading through 36 holes in 2012. And the following year, he was in second place going into the weekend. So I know how this story ends, but I still cling onto the sliver of hope for an alternate one — where Couples doesn’t fall out of contention on Saturday and stays in the mix and then manages to win in dramatic fashion on Sunday when he slips on the Green Jacket for a second time.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of his memorable victory at Augusta National in ’92. We all remember those nerve-wracking seconds on the par-3 12th as the ball hung in the hair and it was unclear whether or not the ball would stay dry and right when it looked like his Masters hopes were about to sink away, the golf gods looked down and it remained on the bank. My gosh, that hole… it’s made and crushed the dreams of so many contenders and/or leaders Sunday.

I’ll still hang onto the possibility that this fairytale ending is possible for Freddie. He made his first Masters start in 1983. Anyone else born that year? <<hand raised>> I forget if it was him or Paul Casey who recalled a funny anecdote from Thursday. Their threesome was completed by Kevin Na. Anyhow, somehow it came up that Freddie’s first Masters was 1983 and Na was like, I was born that year! And they had a good laugh. OK, I didn’t do the story justice and I’m too lazy to go back and find the quote again at this point, so we’ll just leave it at that.

And if he can still muster some faith, so can we.

“I’m a competitor, so I like to believe in myself,” said Couples. “I like to think that I’ve had a lot of good finishes here, and my goal is to keep fighting with these guys. And I think I’m three behind, I don’t know if I’m four behind. But tomorrow, it’s a tough day. And I’m not thinking winning this tournament, but I’m thinking continuing to play well and see what happens.”

Indeed. That sums up my thoughts pretty well.

“Well, there were a couple of times where I was first or second a few years ago,” he said. “And going into Saturday, yeah, you think that. I was playing with Jason Day and struggled a little bit on Saturday. I’m not going to be thinking about winning the tournament until Sunday or the back nine on Sunday. But I’ve got a long way to go before I worry about that.”

Yeah, I remember that. It was devastating for a moment, but we recovered relatively quickly. After all, it seems like a lot to ask out of a guy in his 50s who has struggled with nagging back issues for most of his career.

Per luck of the draw, Couples is paired with rookie sensation Jon Rahm, who was born in 1994, in the third round. This is also what makes the Masters so fun — the tournament doesn’t seem to discriminate. Augusta National is a lot of things, but apparently it’s not ageist? Definitely time to shut it down.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t find Freddie’s tee shot on the 12th hole Sunday in 1992 on YouTube, but that moment is basically engraved in my memory. Here’s the best I could do — the recovery shot from the bank:

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Perhaps I should’ve conveniently forgotten for the sake of saving face, but wow, I thought yesterday’s Periscope live stream chat was rambling and nonsensical… wait until you see what happened tonight! I decided to live dangerously and experiment using Facebook Live and Periscope simultaneously for the first time. And I went totally nuts and had an impromptu surprise guest show up at my apartment to join in on the fun.

I have to work out a better system for handling comments from both and remembering people on one platform can’t see the ones popping up on the other, so it might be hard to follow at times. But hey, I hear raw un-cut and un-produced content is trendy these days, so that’s part of the charm of my nonsensical blabbering! Yes, that’s it! OK, good night. For real.