published Friday, April 12th, 2013

Fred Couples near top in Masters again

Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the 18th green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Augusta, Ga.
Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the 18th green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Augusta, Ga.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fred Couples seems to float around Augusta National Golf Club more than he walks between the ropes.

The 1992 Masters champion again has his name on the leaderboard. It's been there before plenty of times, including eight other finishes in the top 10.

The 53-year-old with back problems shot a 4-under-par 68 and is in a six-way tie for fourth, two shots off the lead, after the first round.

"Well, it's not year after year [that I contend], but last year I was in the last group," Couple said. "It's not surprising. I'm going to come out tomorrow and do everything I can to keep this going, because I know I can play this course. And if I hit it like that, I can play it every day."

Couples recorded six birdies and two bogeys, including one on the final hole after his tee shot trickled into a bunker.

"It was a little bit of a shaky lie," Couples said. "I almost hit a great shot out of there. I was trying to half-skull a 9-iron, and I'm not too disappointed with a bogey there."

Tiger lurking

Pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods is tied for 13th after shooting a 2-under 70. Woods opened with 70s the first three times he won the Masters and began his run to the green jacket in 2005 with a 74 on that Thursday.

"It's a good start," said Woods, who admitted he had trouble on the greens and putts didn't roll as he expected. "Some years some guys start by shooting 65 out here. But right now, I'm only four back and I'm right there."

Champ falls short

Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson is one of the longest hitters on the planet.

That doesn't help when putts come up short as they did on a regular basis Thursday, resulting in an opening round 3-over 75 that included four three-putts.

"I never got the speed right, never got the ball to the hole," Watson said. "They were slower than what I was expecting. The balls weren't rolling out like they normally do over the past years, so I left a lot of putts short."

The worst round he shot last year was a 1-under 71. He enters the 2013 second round nine shots off the lead, which decreases his odds of becoming the first champion to repeat since Woods in 2002.

"It's golf," Watson said. "There's going to be good days and bad days."

Seeing the Power C

UTC senior golfer Steven Fox had "Chattanooga" on his bag and the "power C" logo on his blue golf shirt and hat.

He wasn't the only one.

"I come every year, but following Steven makes it even more fun," said Chuck Donahoo, an Ooltewah resident who regularly attends the Masters and followed along Thursday in UTC gear as Fox carded a 76 in his Masters debut. "I love college golf, and having Steven Fox in the mix is awesome."

Friends of the Festival executive director Chip Baker wore a yellow UTC hat here Thursday, following Fox with his son Sullivan.

Fox will tee off today at 1:30 p.m. -- with Watson and Ian Poulter -- looking to make the weekend in his Masters debut.

Thompson rewarded

Former University of Alabama golfer Michael Thompson called a penalty on himself in 2008 when he played as the U.S. Amateur champion. His ball oscillated ever so slightly, and Thompson called the one-stroke penalty.

That same hole, Fire Thorn, rewarded his honesty Thursday. Thompson scored an eagle there on his way to a 1-over 73.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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