63-year-old Masters champion shoots under par in first round


Looking at the Masters leaderboard on this opening round Thursday, there’s a lot of names you’d expect at the top. Players like Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland leading the way at 7-under doesn’t shock many. 

But what might surprise some is Fred Couples, who, at 63 years old, went into the clubhouse under par for his first round of the week. 

As is the case with every Masters tournament, previous champions have the opportunity to play in the tournament if they’d like, and Couples usually takes Augusta National up on that when Masters week comes. 

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Fred Couples looks over a putt during the first round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2023. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

But, while many former champions play two rounds and don’t make the cut, Couples has set himself up to do so depending on how his second round Friday goes. 

Couples shot 71 on the par-72 course to finish 1-under heading into the clubhouse. It was the 78th round that Couples has shot par or under at the Masters, which is second all-time behind golf legend Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion. Nicklaus and two other golfers, Gary Player and Tom Watson, kick off the tournament with their drive on hole one. 

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The front nine was solid for Couples, though he had two bogeys on holes five and nine to go two-over. But Couples decided to turn things around on the back nine. 

After shooting par on holes 10 and 11, Couples got back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 to bring himself back to even on the day. Holes 11-13 are known as “Amen Corner” at the Masters, and they’re usually the most challenging holes at Augusta National. 

Fred Couples on the third green during the first round of the Masters Tournament on April 6, 2023.

Fred Couples on the third green during the first round of the Masters Tournament on April 6, 2023. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

However, when you’ve played this course 38 times now, Couples knew how to approach it. 

Holes 15 and 17 would see two more birdies from Couples, who stepped up to his last hole of the day at two-under on the round. He would get bogey on hole 18, but he has to be impressed with his round that he’d love to replicate with bad weather approaching Augusta in coming days. 

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Couples’ only Masters win came in 1992, though he has 14 other PGA Tour victories under his belt. Couples also didn’t hang up the golf spikes for good, playing on the PGA Tour Champions, the senior tour, where he won 14 times as well. 

Fred Couples plays his shot from the fourth tee during the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2023.

Fred Couples plays his shot from the fourth tee during the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2023. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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As of now, Couples is tied-23rd at the Masters. 



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