AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fred Couples’ luck on No. 12 at Augusta National seems to have no expiration date.
Couples got another huge break on the short and tricky hole Friday, stirring memories of his famous shot there in 1992.
Couples hit a 9-iron from 155 yards and came up short when his ball caught a gust of wind. It landed on the embankment and started rolling toward Rae’s Creek. Somehow, it stopped.
“I got very, very lucky,” said Couples, who finished with his second straight 1-under 71. “Luckily I was aiming far enough left that it didn’t catch the big bank and the slope. Very lucky.”
Just maybe not as fortunate as he was in 1992.
Couples’ tee shot came up short back then, too, but his ball suddenly and inexplicably stopped rolling a few inches from the water. He followed with an up-and-down for par that kept him in the hunt. He went on to win his only Masters.
He later called it the “biggest break” in his golf career.
Couples didn’t get up-and-down this time. He nonchalantly flubbed his chip and made bogey. Still, he bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 13th and finished 2 under and five shots behind second-round leader Bubba Watson.
“Would I want to put on another jacket here? Yeah,” Couples said. “But I’ve got 36 holes. I need to play better than I did the last two days. And I felt like I played really well. I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Turnaround: One day after nothing went right, Branden Grace could do no wrong.
The big hitter – and occasional wild hitter – from South Africa followed his 84 with a 3-under 69 Friday. He still missed the cut, but leaves on a happy note.
“I thought it might be comeback of the year,” Grace said. “It could have been. I had an eagle putt horseshoe out on the 15th, and missed a short one on the 16th. Oh well.”
He would have needed a 63 – or a 90 in the first round – to have matched the Masters record. Craig Wood went from an 88 to a 67 in 1936.
Grace said he’s been struggling for three weeks and needs a break, so he will head home to South Africa for five weeks, not returning until the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth to start his run to the U.S. Open.
But he won’t be leaving Friday. Grace brought his parents and friends to Augusta, so they all might as well stick around and enjoy it.
“I think I might buy a little chair and put six in a row for the family,” Grace said.
Rookies and champs: The rookies are outplaying the former champions at the Masters.
Five of the 24 first-timers are under par following the second round at Augusta National. Only three of the 19 past champions are in red numbers.
Rookies Jonas Blixt (3-under 141), Jordan Spieth (141), Jimmy Walker (142), Stephen Gallacher (143) and Kevin Stadler (143) accomplished the feat.
“This is all you want,” Blixt said. “You want to be in contention come Saturday and Sunday. So I’m very happy with where I’m at for now. It’s right where I want to be – unless I had a 20-shot lead, but that’s not going to happen. You can’t ask for anything else in a major championship to be up there and have a chance of winning. It’s a cool, cool thing to do.”
Second-round leader and 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson (137), 1992 champ Fred Couples (142) and defending champ Adam Scott (141) are the only previous event winners in red numbers.