Masters Diary: I’d choose a couple of green jackets over cuts, says Couples

FRED COUPLES has teed up his golf ball 23 times in the Masters and has played the weekend at Augusta National each and every year.

It’s a successive streak he shares with Gary Player. Couples can be as wild off the tee as any of them so it’s hardly surprising that he finds it difficult to explain such a run of consistency.

“It’s not one of the great records here and I’d rather have two green jackets than making all the cuts,” said the man who was blessed by an extraordinary stroke of luck at the short 12th on his way to winning the 1992 Masters. His tee shot stuck in the bank fronting the green instead of rolling back into Rae’s Creek.

“I don’t think I’ve every come here — except last year — worrying about making a cut,” said the 48-year-old American. “Augusta brings something out in me even when I’m not playing well. I can tell you right now my goal this week is not to make the cut; it’s to play very, very well.”

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SETANTA Ireland Sports chief Niall Cogley has travelled to the Masters in expectation of a memorable week for the channel. They are taking a full, uninterrupted feed of all four days from the US channel CBS with Nick Faldo and David Feherty among the commentary team and with our own Roddy Carr on the golf course on “Harrington Watch”.

Furthermore, today’s always exciting Par 3 competition also goes out live on Setanta without any commercial breaks. Nobody has won the Par 3 tournament and the Masters itself in the same year since the small course event commenced with victory for Sam Snead in 1960. Among those who have done the double in different years are Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gay Brewer, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Ray Floyd, Vijay Singh, Sandy Lyle and Mark O’Meara. Having tied for the honour with David Toms in 2003, Padraig Harrington claimed the title outright a year later.

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PADRAIG HARRINGTON, the only Irishman in the field, has been drawn to play with 2003 champion Mike Weir of Canada and the Indian Jeev Milkha Singh in tomorrow’s first round. They tee off at 3.34pm Irish time and have a starting time of 6.41pm Irish time on Friday.

Tiger Woods goes out immediately afterwards with reigning US Open champion Angel Cabrera and Australian Stuart Appleby.

That is the second last match on Friday, meaning that it will be close to midnight Irish time by the time the runaway 11/10 favourite completes 36 holes.

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NOT many of you will have heard of the tiny twin-towns of Milton and Bagdad in the Florida panhandle but they are among the proudest people in golf this week, having provided three first-time players, Heath Slocum, Boo Weekley and Bubba Watson, to the Masters field. Weekley and Slocum, both 34, were teammates at school and Watson came along five years later. Last year, Weekley was out hunting when he got the call to represent the US in the World Cup and also pick his own partner. He never hesitated. “There ain’t one person I’d even think about going with me and that’s my best friend Heath.”

Whatever about their prowess at school, the trio did well in the fun stakes with Weekly voted best laugh, Slocum best smile and Watson sharpest sideburns!

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THERE was a time when Augusta National played the same from one year to another. Tees, bunkers and greens filled the same location, the rough didn’t count and the “patrons” had plenty of room to watch the action. Not quite so nowadays with the course extended beyond 7,440 yards with new tees and bunkers everywhere and almost every putting surface altered in some way or another. It’s all part of the Tiger proofing introduced and continued since the dramatic arrival of Woods.

This year a new pin is due to be unveiled at the par 4 7th, with six feet added to the left side of the green. A bunker to the back left was also moved back several feet. The wickedly back to front sloping 9th green has been softened to make pin placements less severe and at the 11th, trees planted in the past few years have been removed to make for a wider fairway.

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