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Masters: Fred Couples sits at 5 under through 36 holes

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Fred Couples won the Masters in 1992. (USATSI)

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Fred Couples' laid-back demeanor and breezy swing have endeared him to the Augusta faithful, even 21 years removed from his only Masters victory. It doesn't hurt that he seems as comfortable at Augusta National, one of golf's most challenging tests, as he does during a leisurely round at the local club with his buddies.

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Through 36 holes of the 77th Masters, Couples sits at 5 under, in second place, one stroke behind leader Jason Day. It's an impressive showing for anyone, but what Couples has accomplished is particularly noteworthy because he's 53. But it's not surprising. Since turning 50, Couples' Masters finishes include a 6th in 2010, T-15th in 2011 and T-12 last year.

Couples fired a 68 on Thursday to get to 4 under and followed that up with a 1-under 71 on Friday. That included an emphatic birdie on No. 18 that brought the patrons to their feet for an unmistakable Masters roar.

"[It was a] hard course out there," Couples told reporters in the interview room after the round. "I felt very good about what I shot -- I had a couple of little hiccups out there [on No. 7] … but the golf course is winning today. … For me personally, it was great to hit two good shots and make that putt [on No. 18]."

For his career, Couples has 10 top-10 finishes at Augusta, including 1992, when he left the grounds with a green jacket. For now, he's the second-best golfer on the property, flying under the radar in typical steady-as-Freddie goes fashion.

The question now is if he keep it going.

"I think for myself, I hit the ball a long way, and I know last year I putted very, very well," Couples said. "The last two days, I've driven the ball nicely. So it seems like the same old course to me. So, am I good enough to play four rounds in a row on a course like this? It didn't happen last year … but, you know, when I get to be a certain age and I'm not driving it well enough [to avoid a 3- or 4-iron into No. 18th], then it'll be impossible for me to compete here."

Couples concedes that the next two days won't be easy.

"I'm surprised [at where I am on the leaderboard], but I'm not going to freak out over it," he said. "I'd like to have another run [at a victory] … and hopefully tomorrow, I'll play well, and I'll have a shot at Sunday. It's hard -- it's a hard course. … But I'm hoping it keeps going tomorrow and Sunday."

If the magic somehow continues for 36 more holes, we'll be talking about this in much the same way that we refer to what Jack Nicklaus did on these hallowed grounds in 1986.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. There is, as they say, a lot of golf left.

 
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