Couples' third round kills shot at Masters glory

Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters.

Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – After a third-round 75 dropped Fred Couples from the co-lead to seven strokes behind in a tie for 11th, the needle in his mind got stuck on one disturbing pattern.

“Three 6s,” he said three times in a brief interview Saturday. “That’s pretty bad.”

Unless you’re playing cards. But Couples was playing high-stakes golf. At 52, the oldest midway leader in Masters history, he was trying to put himself in position to win a second green jacket 20 years after his lone major-championship victory.

Instead he went into rapid rewind. He got off to a poor start (bogeying Nos. 1-2 and double-bogeying the fifth), got back to within three of the lead briefly after birdies at 11-12 but then retreated again after bogeys at Nos. 15, where he rinsed a second shot from 255 yards that failed to fade from, and 16, where he three-putted.

“I’m not overly disappointed,” he said. “But I’m fairly disappointed.”

Couples hit a poor iron shot at the first and left a shot in a greenside bunker from a bad lie at the second. But the double from 170 yards out in the middle of the fairway troubled him most. Set up to play the kind of cut he had hit on the first four holes, he admittedly swung too hard and pulled the shot long and left. His first chip didn’t get to the green.

“A comedy of errors,” he said of that hole. “That was high school material.”

Couples was pleased with his driving but not putting. Still, he cracked, “I wish a couple of (spectators) could have played a few shots for me.”

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