I must admit. I’m sore. After walking up, down, and around the hills of Augusta National for the past five days, my entire body aches. My legs, my back, and the soles of my feet feel like needles have infiltrated my bones.
Don’t feel sorry for me — I’m at The Masters, where I witnessed Friday what I’d like to call the most exhilarating Friday in Masters’ history.
I’m also 27, and during a ‘normal’ week, I’ll run three, four, or six miles per day, so my soreness comes as a bit of a surprise.
It also raises my admiration for Fred Couples, the ’92 Masters champion — from this point forward referred to simply as ‘Freddie’. I might as well call him that. Everyone else does.
If Tiger is the show and Phil is the thrill, then Freddie is the people. He’s the everyman, the 51-year-old with the bad back, lumbering and sometimes hobbling around the course that he outwardly loves.
“I would be playing here as a cripple,” Freddie said after shooting a four-under par 68 Friday, finishing in a tie for seventh entering Saturday’s third round.
I believe him, mainly because I walked next to him at The Masters on Saturday in 2009. The day before, he missed the cut. On that Saturday, wearing plaid shorts and flip flops, he followed Tiger with the rest of the patrons.
He loves this place, and normally, the Augusta National course loves him back. In 2010 he finished in a tie for sixth. In his Masters career, he’s made 25 cuts, earned 10 Top 10s, and holds the tournament’s career scoring record with an average round of 71.94. That’s even better than Jack.
“But can I still win?” Freddie said Friday. “This would be the only Tour event that I probably could still win. I know the course more than most people, and it helps.”
As long as he’s in contention, Freddie will be the favorite of the Augusta crowd. There’s an undeniable sense that he’s one of them.
“How’s Freddie’s round going,” a security guard runs up to ask me on 18th tee. Patrons yell, ‘Let’s go buddy,’ as he walks up the fairway, and a standing ovation awaits him at the final green.
“His character is never going to change,” Luke Donald said after chatting with Freddie throughout their Friday round. “He’s laid-back Freddie. That’s who he is.”
If Freddie slips on Sunday green, he will become the oldest Masters champion — breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record on the 25th anniversary of his Augusta victory at the age of 46.
In doing so, he will have beaten a crowded leaderboard that includes Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler, three emerging superstars in their early 20s, all younger in age than the 25 cuts Freddie’s made at Augusta National. He will have also beaten Tiger Woods.
“You know, it would be the biggest upset in golf history,” he said Friday.
C’mon Freddie — we’re ready to see you fight.
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