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Green: Young-at-heart Couples in search of swansong

Someone asked Freddie Couples what would happen if he won the Masters this week at age 52.

“They’d probably never see me again,” he said. “It would be a walk-off. I’m serious about that.

“What a way to go.”

Yes, what a sweet way to go, one that would be cheered by the millions who have followed him for more than a quarter century as he ambled along the fairways like a man out for a stroll and in no hurry to get there.

He’s halfway there after shooting a 5-under-par 67 Friday to go with a Thursday 72 and tie for the lead with Jason Duffner and, as usual, making it look easy with a swing that looked so effortless it reminds you of velvet spilling off a bolt.

“Very shocking,” he said. “It was a great day.”

Some people weren’t shocked. Sergio Garcia, one of Couples’ closest pursuers, said: “He’s amazing. He always does it.”

The oldest champion ever in this spring classic was Jack Nicklaus, who won his sixth Masters in 1986 at the age of 46 and had us wondering how a gentleman of that advanced age could do it.

Couples is six years older but he says “I feel like I’m very young when I get here.”

He looked young out there Friday.

Phil Mickelson says this is like a park to him. Couples says he feels the same way. He knows the course probably as well as anyone and is focusing on staying away from big trouble.

He bogeyed his first hole, but birdied five of his next eight. Then he strung together five straight pars, birdied the 15th and 16th and parred the last two. By the time he had finished, he had collected a Tiger-like gallery, many of them with traces of gray in their hair.

He’s been coming here a long time – 28 years. He won it in 1992, thanks in part to a tee shot on the par-3 12th that came up short and was rolling back into the water, the way they all did, but miraculously stopped in the grass. Augusta National giving some love back to a guy who has always said this is his favorite golf course and favorite event.

Can he win another?

“Yeah,” he said, “I believe I can.”

What a way that would be to go.

Ron Green Sr. is a retired Charlotte Observer sports columnist.

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