Augusta, Georgia: Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer briefly turned back the clock during round two of the Masters.
The two former Masters champions fell back on years of experience to navigate the tough, windy conditions Friday at Augusta National, climbing steadily up the leaderboard as many of their younger, stronger rivals headed in the opposite direction.
The 53-year-old Couples, who won his green jacket in 1992, followed up an opening 68 with an up-and-down round of 71 on Friday to get to 5 under and one shot off the lead.
Two-time winner Langer, 55, whose first green jacket (1985) is older than more than a few of his opponents, notched his second consecutive 71 to reach 2 under and a share of 14th.
"I mean, I'm surprised," Couples said, "but I'm not going to freak out over it."
Langer wasn't surprised by Couples' strong play.
"Fred loves this place," he said. "He's played here 28 times and he's only missed one cut by one shot. This is his second home."
So much so that Couples, who was in much the same position after two rounds just a year ago, renewed his threat to retire on the spot if he won at Augusta National again.
"I'm going to quit when I win this thing, I swear to God," he said to laughter. "I'm going to retire. It's probably not ever going to happen, but I'm going to retire.
"I'm not going to kid you. I mean, it's a hard course. I'm really tired. I'm swinging hard at every drive I hit."
Langer wasn't buying the idea that Couples couldn't win, either. The German was less certain about his own chances.
"I always thought that Freddie, with his length, can win it, because he hits it a good 30 yards by me, which helps a great deal on some of these holes," Langer said. "For me to win, everything has to go my way. I got to start making some putts most of all."
Couples was sharp with the putter most of the day, if only because he'd seen the difficult pin positions at least once or twice before. But he felt like the biggest advantage of all those rounds at Augusta was remembering not to let the swirling winds confuse him or change the way he played his approaches onto the greens.
"Any golf course plays hard when the wind blows," he said. "At Augusta where you're trying to judge your second shots and putts, it becomes really, really hard."
Of course, all the talk about experience can also get, well, old. When Langer was asked for the third time to recount something from his history at Augusta National, he promptly cut it short.
"I think this is my 30th," he said, chuckling. "I'm getting old."