AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Ambling down the first fairway, leading the Masters at 52 years young, Freddie Couples heard the cheers and turned to the fans. “However long it lasts,” he said with a shrug.
Answer: not long.
Couples played the first five holes in 4-over par to go tumbling down the leaderboard, four shots behind Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood.
Couples, playing on the 20th anniversary of his crowd-pleasing victory here, wasn’t the only player to struggle early in the third round on a sun-splashed day at Augusta National.
Rory McIlroy started with a double-bogey and Sergio Garcia bogeyed three of the first seven holes and both were tied with Couples, in 19th place at 1 under.
Jason Dufner, who started the day tied for the lead with Couples, dropped a shot to move to 4 under.
Some of the players with earlier tee times, meanwhile, were making a run.
Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson and Peter Hanson were all on the back nine at 4 under, one off the lead and tied with Dufner and Louis Oosthuizen.
Couples went bogey-bogey to start, then hooked a shot from the fifth fairway well to the left of the green. He came up short on the chip and made double-bogey to fall to 1 under heading to the sixth tee box.
Hours earlier, Tiger Woods began his round hoping to make up at least some part of an eight-shot deficit. After an even-par round in which he couldn’t control his swing and chunked his driver and took a divot out of the 13th tee box, he was exactly where he started — 3-over par and needing the leaders to move backward over the remainder of the day.
“I was so close to putting it together today,” Woods said.
For the second straight day, and only the fourth time in his career at the Masters, he played all four par-5s without making an eagle or birdie. He is 1-under on the par 5s for the tournament — a statistic that gets you nowhere at Augusta National.
Another inauspicious number: Woods has hit 25 of 42 fairways through three rounds — seventh worst in the 63-man field. When he missed badly on No. 13, he drove the club into the ground, a scene that became all too familiar during his round Friday.
Afterward, he apologized for the latest show of temper.
“Am I conscious of it? No,” Woods said. “Certainly, I’m frustrated at times. I apologize if I offend anybody by that but I’ve hit some bad shots. It’s certainly frustrating at times not to hit the ball where you need to hit it.”
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