Laureus Academy Blog: Gary Player at The Masters Part 3
BY GARY PLAYER
I hardly imagined after two days of the Masters that we would all be talking about Fred Couples.
At 51, he could become the oldest winner of any of the Major Championships. It would be some achievement, but people are more active longer and that applies to professional sport as well.
Fred has had to fight serious back problems in his career, but his swing looked as supple and fluent as any of the youngsters at Augusta as he shot a 67 to be joint leader with Jason Dufner.
Maybe the creation of the senior tours has helped to make more golfers competitive for longer. If you remember, Tom Watson nearly won the 2009 Open Championship at 59 at Turnberry.
Of course, at Augusta, we also have Miguel Angel Jiminez, aged 48 and V.J.Singh, at 49, both in red figures for being under par.
Can Fred hold on to win? Well, he's won the Masters, although that was 20 years ago, so he knows his way around Augusta and he seems to have a very relaxed attitude at the moment. Though maybe that will change if he finds himself still in the lead as he comes into Amen Corner on Sunday afternoon. What a great story it would be if he could win.
I said in my preview earlier in the week that if I was picking a winner I would go for Rory McIlory and he is certainly giving me a run for my money, just one behind.
I still don't feel he is showing the fluency and flourish that we usually see from him, but it was a tough breezy day and he had to work very hard for his 69. He is playing his way into the tournament nicely.
The day produced new challengers - Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia joined Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen just a shot behind the lead - but I'm going to stick with Rory at the halfway stage.
I fear even the Tiger Woods at his peak may have left himself too much to do. Today he struggled with his putting and some of his iron shots as well as his driving. Unlike two weeks ago at Bay Hill, he looked like a man with problems today. He will be back and will probably win more Majors, but I doubt it will be Augusta this weekend, although I can't count him out completely.
But don't rule out Phil Mickleson. He played his way back into the championship with a lovely 68 today. The smile was back, the fist was pumping and the crowd was yelling.
If he's in contention on Sunday as a possible home winner, you can expect the pines and the dogwoods around this beautiful course to vibrate with the noise!