Planet Golf — 07 April 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Masters leaders: Old man and every man

Just about everyone who should be there, is there after two rounds of the 76th Masters Tournament. But just look who’s leading them all?

Honestly, who had Fred Couples or Jason Dufner in the office pool? Raise your putter.

The old man and the every man are tied for first at 5-under par, 139.

Couples is 52 years old with 15 PGA Tour victories, including one major – the 1992 Masters. He has 162 career top-10s in 600 career Tour starts.

Dufner, with a pot belly and double chin, is 34 with no PGA Tour victories and 18 top-10 finishes in 161 starts.

They will be paired together for Saturday’s third round. And what a happy-go-lucky tandem that’s going to be. Both play the game as if they are at a neighborhood barbeque. Dufner is the one holding the six-pack.

“There’s a lot more going on out there than appears,” said Dufner, when asked how he can look so easy-going on the course. “I feel like I have the same emotions and same thought processes as a lot of guys, but I seem to not show it quite as well as some other players. It’s a test to yourself.”

Couples has spent an entire career looking like he’s walking his dog. But that may be a facade. For those who know him and have playrf with him, he as fierce as he is fidgety.

“He’s just cool,” Rory McIIroy, 22, said of Couples. McIIroy is one shot behind. “I hope I’m that cool when I’m 52, or whatever he is. Yeah, he’s just a cool guy. And he’s good fun.”

Nothing much seems to change for Couples, whose career might has soared higher if not for chronic back issues. Twenty years ago when he won the Masters, his second round score was 67. He shot a 67 Friday.

He loves Augusta. Two years ago, he opened with a 66 and became the oldest player to hold the lead outright after the first round. Last year he shot a 68 in the second round.

Couples has a chance to become the oldest winner, passing Jack Nicklaus, who won his sixth Green Jacket in 1986 when he was 46. He is the oldest second-round leader. The previous oldest was held by Lee Trevino in 1989 at age 49.

He has made 26 of 28 cuts and has 11 top-10 finishes at the Masters.

“To me, what Tom Watson did (at Turnberry in the 2009 Open Championship) was a miracle,” Couples said. “Anytime I come in here, I feel I can do it. But if I’m fighting off Rory McIIroy at 59, now that would be miraculous.”

NOTES:

The second-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win the Masters Tournament 28 (out of 75) times. Two have done it since 2000, Mike Weir (2003) and Trevor Immelman (2008).

**

Tiger Woods, who finished at 3-over par in 40th place, has failed to record a birdie or eagle on any of the par-5s during a round at the Masters three times, including Friday.

Woods’ 75 ends a streak of 11 straight rounds at par-or-better on the Tour.

The largest comeback at the Masters after the second round is eight strokes (Jack Burke, 1956). Burke was eight behind Ken Venturi through two rounds but edged Venturi by one with closing rounds of 75-71. Woods is eight shots behind.

**

Lee Westwood, one behind at 4-under, has six top-3 finishes in a major. That ties for the most since 1934. Also on that list is: Colin Montgomery (6); Doug Sanders (6); Harry Cooper (5); Bruce Crampton (5); and Sergio Garcia (5). Garcia also is one behind at 4-under.

**

Of the 15 players in their first Masters, seven made the cut: Sang-moon Bae, T33; Webb Simpson, T33; Kevin Chappell, T40; Scott Stallings, T40; Keegan Bradley, T47; Patrick Cantlay (a), T57; Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, T57; and Kelly Kraft, T57.

**

Three of the six amateurs made the cut, Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), T31; Patrick Cantlay (US), T57; and Kraft (US), T57.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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