AUGUSTA, GA. — It depends on when you ask him, because Seattle’s Fred Couples might feel two different ways about his standing after three rounds at the 78th Masters Tournament.
Minutes after his 1-over-par 73 on Saturday, Couples, 54, was hot under the collar, and in very little mood to discuss at great length his chances of chasing down co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson.
“It’s going to take a 65 or 66,” Couples said. “You never know.”
But as it was pointed out, the 1992 Masters champion started the day trailing Watson, the 36-hole leader, by five shots. And now with the co-leaders at 5-under 211, he is only four strokes back at 215.
“I’m playing pretty good golf, and I have a shot (Sunday),” Couples said.
On one hand, at least the O'Dea High School graduate did not shoot himself out of the tournament at Augusta National Golf Club like he has the past two years on a Saturday. He shot 77 last year to fall out of contention, and a 75 in the third round in 2012.
On the other hand, Couples knew he needed to likely make an early move to put pressure on the leaders Saturday. Instead, he did the opposite, making bogeys on three of his first five holes:
* At the opening hole, his approach shot barely stayed on the back of the green. But he had no look at directly going at the hole with 30-foot putt for birdie – and he ended up three-putting.
* At No. 4, the hardest par 3 on the course, “Boom Boom” went boomerang off the tee. His tee shot went so far left, it landed underneath the grandstands stairs.
Given a free drop, his second shot missed clearing a sand trap my mere inches, instead landing up high in the face of the bunker. He did make an incredible up and down just to save bogey.
* And on the next hole, a slightly curving par 4, he left his second shot just in front of the green – and failed to get up and down from 50 feet for par, missing a 41/2-footer on the low side.
“I hit a couple of poor shots and made bogeys,” Couples said. “But I made some birdies and hung in there.”
Indeed he did. He had a tap-in birdie at the 11th hole after a wonderful approach to the course’s longest par 4. And at No. 13, he two-putted from 50 feet for another one.
On the next hole, Couples played his approach shot off a slope left that fed back to the cup. His ball stopped a few inches behind the hole for a final birdie, and suddenly he was back to 2-under for the tournament.
But at No. 17, his 8-iron shot from 170 yards landed hole high, but released through the green, down an embankment and into the players’ walkway. He tried playing a bump-and-run shot into the mound, but it popped up, giving him an 11-footer to save par. He missed.
“I didn’t want to make a double (bogey) there. And I felt like I hit a really, really good (third) shot, and almost made the putt,” Couples said. “But … then I made a lucky par on (No.) 18, so it kind of worked out.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442