Older players fare well at Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Couples, at 54 years old, pulled to within two strokes of the lead on Sunday, and though he faded during the final round, Couples was part of a group that showed the over-50 crowd can still pose a threat.

Couples, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize, Sandy Lyle and Vijay Singh all made this year's Masters cut at 50 or older.

In the end, Couples finished 10 strokes off the pace, failing to be a factor on the back nine at Augusta National on Sunday, but he made it fun for awhile.

Couples birdied the first two holes to pull within two strokes of the lead before fading to a 20th-place finish in his 30th Masters.

"There's a lot of good over-50 players," said Langer, who won the Masters in 1985 and 1993 and at age 55 is a force on the Champions Tour. "We can compete at the highest level and even on a very, very long golf course like this one."

Jimenez, 50, a 20-time winner on the European Tour, came closest to becoming the oldest Masters winner, shooting a final-round 71 to finish four strokes back of Bubba Watson.

He started the day just two strokes back but fell off the pace early before making two late birdies to earn a fourth-place finish and a return trip to Augusta National. The top 12 and ties are offered invitations to the 2015 Masters.

"It's because we play here so many times," said Couples, who won the 1992 Masters and had finished in the top 15 each of the past three years. "You get to know the course, you know the wind, you know how to play it."

Couples began the final round just four back of Watson and Jordan Spieth, and then birdied the first two holes to pull within two strokes. But a three-putt par at the eighth hole saw his chances stall, and then he played the back nine in 41 to shoot 75.

Langer started eight strokes back, but birdied the first and eagled the second. His final-round 69 moved him into a tie for eighth and was his ninth top-10 finish in 31 starts.

"Experience matters," he said. "I was hitting balls next to Rory McIlroy this morning and I hit a 4-iron on to the green on the range and he was next to me and I saw his ball land right where my 4-iron landed. And I said what club was that? And he said 6-iron. So he's hitting two clubs less.

"And then he hits his drive 40 yards past me. He's got a 60-yard advantage on every hole. That's huge."

And yet, McIlroy and Langer both tied for eighth.

Jimenez will play this week's Champions Tour event in Atlanta but then will return to regular golf in an attempt to make the European Ryder Cup team for the fifth time.

"People, they take better care of themselves," Jimenez said. "They are more healthy. If you don't want to be here at 50, you shouldn't be here. I love the game, I love competing and this is probably the reason."