Couples delivers persimmon driver to Augusta - 29 years later

Rory McIlroy, left, and Fred Couples walk up to the fourth tee during their practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Augusta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Rory McIlroy, left, and Fred Couples walk up to the fourth tee during their practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Augusta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: CURTIS COMPTON / AJC

Credit: CURTIS COMPTON / AJC

AUGUSTA - Just what Augusta National needs – more golf relics.

But the place picked up one more Wednesday when Fred Couples dropped off the persimmon driver he used to win the 1992 Masters. He was just 29 years late in delivering the club, but he’s always been the laid back, unhurried type.

Couples only discovered a couple weeks ago that champions traditionally donate a club from their victory to Augusta National, after reading an item that identified him as the one player who hadn’t come through.

“I had no clue. No clue at all,” he said.

“Right now,” he added, “if you said for $5 million walk me in to where these clubs are, I don’t even know where these clubs are. Otherwise I think 10, 12, 15, 18 years ago I would have brought a club.”

But, maybe, he joked, “that would be a good thing to be known for – as the only guy not to give a club.”

Couples would have preferred to donate the wedge he used on the Sunday shot from the bank of Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th. His ball famously came to rest there, in an area where all others have traditionally tumbled back into the water. But when he couldn’t be certain he still had that club, he rescued the old driver from storage in California.

Before handing it over to the club, Couples brought the antique to the practice range Wednesday. There, the wooden driver would be received like an 8-track tape or a Dukes of Hazard lunchbox.

“There were a few guys laughing,” Couples said. “I think they were laughing because maybe they thought I won in 1970 instead of 1992.”

Injured Koepka: ‘No other option’

Brooks Koepka is going to attempt to walk the rolling terrain of Augusta National just three weeks after undergoing ligament repair on his right knee. He does not seem to consider this a test of science, but rather one of will.

As he said Tuesday, after showing up with a slight limp, “You’ve just got to push yourself, and it’s painful at times.”

The four-time major champion, who has come as close as second at the Masters (2019), dislocated his right kneecap when he slipped and fell in early March. Through a series of seven-hour-a-day rehab sessions, he was able to make this unexpected Masters appearance.

He has been spotted limping at times, especially on the downhill portions of his journey here. “There’s a bunch of stuff going on in there that can cause a pain right where the (repair) is,” he said. “It’s probably the most sensitive spot, so it’s going to pull. It’s going to hurt downhill.”

And at times unable to bend both knees while studying a green, he has been forced to keep his right leg extended while getting low to better judge the break. “It’s going to look funny, I know that. But what are you going to do?” he wondered

Asked if he can make it through the rest of the week, Koepka answered simply, “I’ve got to do it. No other option, is there?”

Apparently just not playing this Masters wasn’t a viable option.

Rahm arrives just in time

Jon Rahm arrived at Augusta National without much time to prepare for the Masters.

Such is the life of the golfer who became a first-time father just days ago. Rahm arrived Wednesday morning and hit the practice range. He did a brief interview before he even officially registered for the tournament.

“I’m coming to a Masters, and from Thursday to Monday didn’t sleep much, didn’t hit a single golf shot.,” Rahm, ranked No. 3 in the world, said. “You know, maybe haven’t prepared as much as I have in the past, but definitely mentally in a different state, right. A lot of times practicing for a major you spend so much time thinking about golf, and for four or five days, it wasn’t even on my mind, which is kind of refreshing. Coming here later than usual, but I’m here ready to compete. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

The delivery process started Friday morning and his child was born early at 12:15 a.m. Saturday. That gave Rahm a few days before he had to depart for Augusta.

What did he do during that time?

“Stay up all night and change diapers,” Rahm said. “That’s basically all I can do.”

Fans back next year?

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said he hopes to welcome back all fans for the 2022 Masters after having none in 2019 and a limited number this year. He said the club will continue to follow health and safety guidelines when making the decision.

Ridley declined to say what percentage of fan were at this year’s tournament or how tickets were divided. He did say that some “quite a few” credentials were given to local healthcare workers.

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