It would have seemed that Fred Couples was through crafting his legacy, that at 50 and with a creaky back, he would slip quietly into the relative obscurity of a senior career, but that would be dismissive of the qualities that make him unique and have made him so interesting to watch through the years.
"This is perfect Fred," his long-time coach Paul Marchand said Thursday, attempting to explain his three straight victories on the Champions Tour. "He can do things others can't. He told me's practicing less because of his back. He's putting less when he warms up. He just kind of goes out there putting less pressure on himself."
Marchand, the general manager and head pro at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas, spent Wednesday with Couples and is convinced that he can contend in the Masters next week, notwithstanding his age.
"He's the kind of guy who seems to defy the aging process in a lot of ways," Marchand said. "Distance, for instance. You marvel at the way he still winds up and hits it. I think Fred's the kind of player who's going to achieve things later in his career. He has a special talent. His ability to maintain his swing, it has a timeless quality.
"I would not be surprised at all if he was in contention. He's playing so well. You can tell he feels really, really good about his game. His putting is so impressive, too, and that's a good formula to have, that with his ball striking and distance. He's very calm with the putter. He's had a little anxiety with his putter from time to time, even back to college. I knew him when he was 17 and sometimes in close he looked indecisive and would make a quick stroke. That's not the case now.
"And Fred has always drawn inspiration from being there (at Augusta National), in a very major way. He's highly motivated. He loves the event in a profound way."
-- John Strege