April 8, 2012 in Sports

Moving on down

A day after sharing lead, Couples out of contention
Nancy Armour Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters. He shot a 75 on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Well, that was fun while it lasted.

A day after turning the clock back 20 years and grabbing a share of the lead at the Masters, Freddie Couples looked more suited for the Champions Tour than a green jacket Saturday. The 52-year-old blew up with a 75, and is barely within sight of the leaders going into today’s final round.

“My only excuses were some of the swings I made,” Couples said. “I actually felt pretty good. I’m tired now, but I felt pretty good.”

Playing on the 20th anniversary of his green jacket, the Augusta National fan favorite heard cheers from every corner of the course. Forget these young phenoms. It was the gray-haired guy with the West Coast cool who the fans were pulling for.

“They’re yelling for everyone,” Couples said. “I wish a couple of them would have come out and played a few shots for me today.”

Couples wasn’t the only one going in the wrong direction on Moving Day. Jason Dufner, his co-leader after the second round, finished his round with back-to-back bogeys and also signed for a 75. Rory McIlroy, whose green jacket was being measured until his infamous back-nine implosion last year, posted a 42 on the front nine.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, who began the day two strokes off the lead, tumbled out of contention with five bogeys on the front nine.

Of course, nobody had the crowd behind them like Couples.

“I’m fairly disappointed,” Couples said. “I drove the ball really, really well. I stood there with the perfect clubs and I look back, and I see three sixes. That’s pretty bad.”

Even with that aching back, he has to return today. He said he’ll try his best, but he’s not trying to build any hope for all those Freddie Fans out there.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I need to shoot a 65. I’m not going to shoot a 65,” Couples said. “It would be nice to sit here and tell you that, but I’m going to go out and play my best and certainly shoot better than 75. I’d hope I could do better than that.”

Nothing to prove

Quick! Name the player with the most majors over the last five years.

No, it’s not that Tiger Woods guy. Phil Mickelson is a good guess, but it’s not him, either.

Try Padraig Harrington, who won back-to-back British Opens in 2007 and 2008, as well as the 2008 PGA Championship.

It may have been a few years since the Irishman won a major – been a while since he’s been in contention, really. But he feels no pressure going into today’s final round at the Masters, even if he is quietly lurking five strokes behind leader Peter Hanson.

“I don’t need to go out there and prove anything tomorrow,” Harrington said. “I’m in a great position in that sense.

“I’ve won three majors, I’m going to win more majors, so I don’t have to do it tomorrow. That’s not my one-and-only chance.”

Harrington tied for fifth at Augusta National in 2008, but has missed the cut the last two years. He has only one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this year, and that was in February. Last weekend in Houston, he was 71st.

Back in the game

Henrik Stenson already has a snowman and a double bogey on his scorecard at the Masters.

Yet somehow, he’s still hanging around.

Despite a bogey on the final hole Saturday, the Swede scratched out a 2-under 70 that left him five strokes behind Hanson going into the final round

“I’m not worried that the wheels are going to come off tomorrow because they have been off so many times already,” Stenson said. “It’s just fun to go out and try and make birdies and save myself out of impossible situations when they occur.”

He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Stenson was one hole from being the first-round leader when he blew up with a quadruple-bogey 8 on 18. It matched the highest score on the 18th hole in Masters history.

The damage came a hole earlier Friday, when he made a 6 on 17.

He’s had to scramble all week, mixing great shots with utterly dismal ones.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a roller coaster,” Stenson said. “At this course I have got to try and stay very patient and not lose your head when you are making an easy mistake or two.”

Divots

Gary Woodland, who began Saturday four strokes off the lead at the Masters, withdrew after completing his third round Saturday. He played the last 11 holes at 11 over, making par on only three of them, and finished with a 13-over 85. He played the final 10 holes with pain shooting through his entire left arm. … Hanson’s son, Tim, might be his lucky charm. Hanson’s golf balls all have the number “17” on them in honor of Tim, who was born last Nov. 17 at 5:17 p.m. – or 17:17, if you’re going by a 24-hour clock, as Europeans do. … ESPN’s telecast of the second round Friday drew an average of 4.1 million viewers, the third-largest audience to watch golf on cable, according to fast nationals from the Nielsen Co. It also was a 14 percent increase from last year’s average of 3.5 million. Friday’s telecast also had a 3.3 household rating, up 14 percent from last year.

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