Augusta, GA – Twenty years after his only Masters victory, 52-year-old Fred Couples is tied for the lead during Friday's second round of this year's event at Augusta National.
Couples fired a five-under 67 on Friday and shares first with Jason Dufner, who carded a two-under 70. The duo finished at five-under 139 and is one stroke ahead.
There is a strong contingent of five players tied for third place, headlined by pre-tournament favorite, Rory McIlroy.
The reigning U.S. Open champion, who lost the Masters last year after a terrible drive on the 10th Sunday led to an epic collapse on the back nine, was tied for first until a bogey at the 17th derailed him on Friday.
He saved a nice par at the last for a three-under 69 and a two-round total of four-under 140.
"I've come in here and I know I'm playing well," McIlroy said in a televised interview.
First-round leader Lee Westwood double-bogeyed the 18th hole to shoot a one- over 73 and lose sole possession of first. He is in the mix with McIlroy and others just one back.
"I'm not going to be too far off the lead. That's a position you want to be," Westwood said after his round.
Sergio Garcia was tied atop the leaderboard, but hit a terrible approach into 18 and walked off with bogey. The Spaniard, still majorless at 32, posted a solid four-under 68 on Friday.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, didn't blow up on the closing hole. He was three-over on his front nine, but rebounded with three birdies in his last five for an even-par 72.
Bubba Watson, the long-hitter who lost the PGA in a playoff two years ago, made three birdies on the back nine for his 71 and was the last of the group to get in at four-under par.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th and shot a four- under 68. He is two-under par for the tournament and very much a factor for a fourth green jacket.
Tiger Woods, who already owns four green jackets, is in the penultimate group Friday afternoon and is even-par through seven holes and even for the championship.
Big moves were made on Friday, but none was bigger than Couples'.
In a cold beginning to the morning, Couples and his notoriously bad back started slowly. He bogeyed the opening hole, but got one back with a birdie at the third.
Couples birdied the fourth, but dropped a shot at the par three, the sixth. That hiccup started a great run for the 1992 champion.
Couples hit a five-iron to 25 feet at the seventh and poured in the birdie effort. He tapped in a little birdie putt at No. 8 and polished off his third birdie in a row from 35 feet at the ninth.
After two great par saves at 10 and 11, Couples waited until the par-five 15th for his next birdie. He hammered a fairway-metal just 20 feet past the stick and narrowly missed his eagle try. Couples tapped in for birdie and got to four-under par.
At the par-three 16th, Couples played his tee ball to 15 feet and drained the putt to bring the patrons to their feet. He was tied for the lead, parred out and is a second-round co-leader.
"It's a little bizarre," Couples said in a TV interview.
Dufner enjoyed an up-and-down round Friday. He mixed six birdies, two bogeys and a double at the fourth after a poor drive, poor approach and poor bunker shot.
"I just got in a bad situation," Dufner said.
One of Dufner's bogeys came at the last. He had a muddy ball and hit a four- iron into the right greenside bunker. Dufner couldn't save par and now he's tied for the lead.
"At times I know I that I am leading or behind or whatever it might be in that situation," said the laid-back Dufner. "I'm just trying to have a nice round of golf, play well, commit to my shots and let the rest take care of itself."