AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Aside from being one of the world's best golfers, Fred Couples also is one of its more renowned couch potatoes. Along with a couple of errant shots on the back nine at Augusta National yesterday, the attention Couples paid to television reports the past few days might have cost him the 62nd Masters.
Just ask him.
"It's hard when you're leading and you turn the TV on to watch something and they're all telling you're going to win and how you're going to do it," Couples said after his final round of 2-under-par 70 left him one shot short of champion Mark O'Meara, tied with David Duval at 8-under 280. "I like watching FTC sports, and the Masters has got every channel on the sports.
"So you know, you laugh at it. But then when you go out there, it really isn't that hard. You're either going to play well or not."
Trying to become the first wire-to-wire winner here since Ray Floyd ran away from the field in 1976, Couples failed to win his second Masters. Just as he often saw his tee shot at the par-3 12th hole stay on the bank during his victory in 1992, he will see his approach at the par-5 13th fall into the water in TV footage of this year's edition.
Leading O'Meara and Duval by two shots at the time, Couples snap-hooked his drive 20 yards left of the fairway. After managing to get his ball under some trees and back into the fairway, Couples had 162 yards to the pin on the 485-yard hole. In between clubs, he wound up hitting a 7-iron a little too softly and the ball hit the bank and went back into a tributary to Rae's Creek.
He would double-bogey the hole. While he would come back with a magnificent eagle at the par-5 15th, and later get up-and-down from two bunkers for par on the par-4 18th hole, the shots at 13 opened the door for O'Meara.
"I might have been luckier if the ball had went in the trees and missed the water," he would say later. " I didn't miss many shots, I just made a big blunder on 13."
Couples, 38, seemed to understand how the opportunity had slipped away at a stage of his career when he is capable of still winning tournaments, but not with the regularity that he did when he was younger, healthier and No. 1.
"You know, I'm not in contention every week anymore," said Couples, who won the season-opening Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. "I feel like I did nothing wrong. I watched a guy win the Masters. I could go back to the first hole and say I wish I would have parred it. But I did a lot of good things today."
How long would the errant shots stay with Couples? "It's not going to stick with me as soon as I walk out of here," he said.
But the reminders will be constant. A soft couch and the latest sports are never too far away.
Pub Date: 4/13/98