1992: End of foreign invasion

For Fred Couples, the coat was too short and a little snug. A little large for Ian Woosnam, though.

You’ll recall little Woosie, the Welshman, defending champion of the Masters. At 3:58 Sunday afternoon, Woosnam’s name came down from the leaderboard at Augusta National Golf Club, and for all serious purposes, the lengthy foreign siege of the Masters was over.

Craig Parry and Ian Baker-Finch were still there, but leaking oil badly, as they say in Australia. All these years the world has waited, expecting Greg Norman to be the first Aussie to win the Masters, ever checking his jacket size. One year he lost in a playoff, another year came into the 18th green needing only a routine approach and par to make a playoff again, but he played it like a club member in the Chokeberry Classic.

Just when it was looking like the first Australian in a green jacket would be Parry, briefly built but strong and much a gentleman, Frederick Stephen Couples leaped to the defense of national pride.

Actually, no giant leap was required. The foreign invaders didn’t simply go into retreat, they went into a massive collapse, led by the Australian Parry (78) on the front end and the Spanish Severiano Ballesteros (81) to the rear, an awful, awful day for a man twice the champion here. Ballesteros lost seven strokes on two holes and managed to beat only three players in the field.

Couples had only to play the fourth round in 70 strokes, his worst score of the week. When it came down to the stretch run, all the fight had gone out of the international lads, and it developed into a fitting scramble between the three Americans who have been playing the most impressive golf on the PGA Tour this year.

Rightfully, victory went to the player rated the finest in the world by the unofficial Sony System — Couples. All one has to do is check figures of the PGA Tour and one has the picture.

Obviously, the right man won, and Couples graciously accepted the hallowed green jacket from Woosnam in the traditional Masters ceremony. Couples is a 32-year-old player whose career is late blossoming, in the judgment of his peers and other observers. His style is so laid-back, he appears to take a nap on his backswing. He is high on talent, but low on emotion. He accepts the good with the disastrous with hardly a gurgle of change in expression.

This is his first major championship, not that it should have been. He had the PGA Championship in his bag at Shoal Creek two years ago, but his putter blade turned on him on the back nine. He missed four putts within 10 feet and the door opened to Wayne Grady, another Australian.

This is not to turn an American classic into a battleground of nations, but after four years of winners from other shores, the natives had grown restless for a return of the green jacket to the home side.

If there was any significant turning point in Couples’ route to the board room in Butler Cottage, it came on the 12th hole, the devilish par-3 on which so many Masters tournaments have been decided. His tee shot hit the green, bounced back and came to rest on a steep bank in the hazard about two feet above the water. Usually, such shots roll back into the creek, but for reasons unknown to man, the grass held this one. Couples chipped up close, sank the putt, and thus the Masters was saved, you might say.

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