Fred Couples, 53, played himself out of contention during the third round… (Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty…)
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Few people at Augusta were more surprised to find Fred Couples once more playing in the final pairing on a Saturday at the Masters than Couples himself.
Not surprising, unfortunately: The 53-year-old's enduring a second straight Saturday plunge, going from one shot off the lead to a round of five-over 77 and more or less out of contention. It was no slow fade this time, with two disastrous holes undermining an otherwise benign day.
"The rest of the holes weren't all that great either," Couples said. "I was very mediocre. I made a lot of pars, but I had just some mediocre swings. I wasn't all over the place."
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Couples was at give under and in the lead after two rounds in 2012 before a Saturday swoon. It happened again in this third round, starting with another five-under score.
First, a bunker shot rolled off the green and led to a double bogey on No. 7.
All was not lost, though, until a triple-bogey detonation at No. 17.
"I just tried to hit an eight-iron a little too hard and I didn't cut it, and then it was just a comedy of bad shots," Couples said. "But I would think that put me out of any running for anything."
Jeff Knox joked that no one wants to play golf with him at the Masters because "that means they're in last place." Since 2002, Knox has played numerous rounds as a non-competing marker, and Saturday he played with Bubba Watson.
"I just played with the Masters champion," said Knox, an Augusta National member who holds the course record of 61 from the member tees. "That was awesome."
Watson was playing well until his tee shot on 11 caromed into two spectators. He rewarded them with a signed golf ball that contained the word "Sorry!"
Out of reach
Luke Donald was one under heading into the weekend and, while on the fringes of contention, was in striking distance of the leaders nonetheless. Then he shot a three-over 75 in the third round of a tournament he felt he was set up to win.
"It's kind of taunting you — they're only six or seven shots ahead," Donald said. "In a PGA Tour event, you feel still very much in that tournament. Around here, it's probably a little harder to make up shots. It's a little frustrating I wasn't able to shoot something better, because I certainly felt I played better than my score."
Search and recovery
Tim Clark blew up with a second-round 76, but he ambushed the course with five birdies on the front nine en route to a 67 Saturday and a contending score of three under. As for the putting that betrayed him in that second round? He didn't practice it a bit before Saturday.
"The worst thing I could have done yesterday was probably go and practice and grind over it," Clark said. "I just had to kind of let it go."
A look ahead
Fourteen-year-old Tianlan Guan said he "probably" would attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open in June but that "depends on the schedule."