Fred Couples turning ‘pipe dream' into possibility

AUGUSTA -- On Tuesday, Fred Couples scoffed at the notion he could win the 2010 Masters.

"I like my chances of having fun and playing," he said. "But to win? No. That would be pipe dream."

After Thursday's opening round in the Masters, Couples might want to start looking for a lighter.

The 50-year-old Champions Tour rookie carded his lowest round ever at Augusta National -- 6-under-par 66 -- and enters Friday's second round as the tournament leader.

Nonetheless, Couples still counts himself among the long shots.

"To win Augusta at age 50 would be a pipe dream," said Couples, who last won here 18 years ago. "Can I still win? Of course. It would be a nice dream, that's for sure. But I've got a lot of golf left to even be thinking about being in contention."

Couples then turned to the electronic scoreboard in the interview room of the press building at Augusta National and noted the many red numbers there.

"I'm leading the tournament at the moment but, you know, there's a bunch of 5 unders up there," he said.

Yes, but there were a bunch of his peers "up there," too.  In fact, it was a relative AARP convention on the Masters leaderboard.

Couples' first-round score tied Ben Hogan for the lowest round by a member of the 50-something set. Hogan shot 66 in 1967 at the age of 54. But a stroke behind Couples was 60-year-old Tom Watson, who lost last year’s British Open in a playoff to Stewart Cink and beat Couples by a stroke in a Champions event early this year.

Also represented was Sandy Lyle, 52, who with a 69 carded his lowest round since 1992. And then there was Bernhard Langer, also 52, who finished at 1-under 71.

“The over-50s still can win a major,” Langer said, “but it would be most difficult here [Augusta National] because it is one of the longest courses we play."

The thing about Couples, Langer said, is he's still hitting those 300-plus yard drives that earned him the nickname "Boom Boom" in the 1990s.

“Freddie [50-year-old Couples] can still hit it a long way," Langer said. "Tom Watson and I are probably 30 yards shorter. It will be a little harder for us, but we still can compete.”

Jack Nicklaus was the oldest Masters champion, winning in 1986 at the age of 46.

There was evidence Couples was capable of playing this way. But nobody was sure if what he was doing on the Champions Tour would translate to a major championship.

Couples won the last three events in -- mostly in runaway fashion -- on the 50-and-over circuit. He was runner-up to Watson in the only other tournament he played.

"There's a little something in the air that I feel like I'm going to play well out there," he said of the old-folks tour."I think my time has gone by on the regular tour, even though today is a great, great, great day. But on the Champions Tour I'm the youngest guy out there and I feel like I'm a very good player and one of the guys to beat."

Here, too, apparently.

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