Masters: Grading the first round at Augusta

Can Tiger get to 20 majors? (Getty Images)
Fred Couples shot a 68 in the first round of play at the Masters(Getty Images)
More Golf: Masters | Leaderboard | Rankings | Expert Picks | Equipment | FedEx Cup

Fred Couples emerged from somewhere in the azaleas on Thursday (as he usually does this time of year) to shoot a beautiful little 4-under 68 and find himself near the top of the leaderboard at the Masters.

More on the Masters
Related links
More Golf coverage

Couples trails leaders Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia by two strokes and is tied with a group at 4 under that includes Matt KucharRickie Fowler, David Lynn and Trevor Immelman.

He told ESPN after his round how important it was that he hit his driver well:

"I just love the place. I was swinging pretty hard today, I was close to a couple of Dustin Johnson's 3-woods. If I drive it like that I can play it any day."

It seems ridiculous given his age (53) but this is a spot Couples has become accustomed to in the last few years.

The 1992 Masters champion shot an opening-round 66 in 2010 to take the first-round lead and was tied with Jason Dufner for the second-round lead in 2012 at 5 under.

Couples only made two bogeys (at No. 6 and No. 18) on Thursday and delighted the patrons with a flurry of birdies on the back nine (at No. 10, No. 13, and No. 17).

Earlier this week he told CBS Sports' On the Range how much he loves coming to the Masters:

"Last year I told a lot of people 'Phil [Mickelson] plays well here because he feels like it's his playground' and I'm a little bit of the same way. I've been everywhere on this course. I know how to punch it out of the trees on No. 11, I know how to get it on some of the greens, and make some putts and that's the whole art of this facility. I enjoy playing here."

That enjoyment was on full display as Couples strolled Augusta on Thursday. He seems to never get too high or too low, a great disposition for a 53-year-old trying to win his first major in more than 20 years. 

Can he do it this year? I don't think so, and it would probably be the sports story of the year if he did, but Couples seems to get better with age. 

And this is his fifth 68 or better in the last four years. If he has a couple more in the bag with him over the next three days we could be talking about history on Sunday night.

Here are the rest of our grades for the first round:

A Marc Leishman nearly broke the international record for lowest score on the back nine on Thursday with a 31. He won't go wire-to-wire but at least he can say he led the Masters.
A Sergio Garcia shot a bogey-free 66 on Thursday, which is an unbelievable turn when you consider in his last eight rounds in major tournaments he was 21 over. This was his first bogey-free round at Augusta since 2002.
A Dustin Johnson made the only eagle of the day on No. 13 and he and Couples fed off of each other all afternoon as they played in the same pairing. Johnson will dominate the par-5s this week and he isn't going anywhere. He's at 5-under 67.
A I should never be surprised when Fred Couples contends at Augusta, but I seemingly always am. He's done this two of the last three years. Can he stretch it to Sunday this time?
A A ridiculous 73 out of 14-year-old Guan Tianlang. Usually when you shoot 5 times your age, that's a bad thing. Not for Guan.
B Tiger Woods shot a ho-hum 70 on Thursday but it could have been better. He butchered a few holes on the back nine but he's in a good spot. Three wins and one loss when he shoots 70 in the first round at the Masters.
D I didn't expect a good week out of Bubba Watson but the defending champion is now in danger of missing the cut after a first-round 75. 
F British Amateur champ Alan Dunbar shot a 46 on the front nine today and it was as bad as it sounds. He only parred one hole (No. 9) and had seven bogeys and a triple-bogey. He will not be taking home low-amateur honors. He shot an 83.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
    24/7 Scores, News, Highlights