Chalk up one for the old guys.
In a Masters when so much of the talk was about youth, the senior set drew quite a bit of attention of its own.
Start with Miguel Angel Jimenez, the swashbuckling Spaniard who fancies fine wine and Cuban cigars. His fourth-place finish is the best for a golfer 50 or over at the Masters since 1963, when Sam Snead tied for third. With Bernard Langer tying for eighth on the strength of a final-round 69, the two Europeans became only the second set of quinquagenarians to finish in the top 10 since Ben Hogan and Snead did it in 1967.
Throw in Fred Couples, who for the fourth year in row contended well into the weekend, and the fact that a total of six players 50 and above made the cut, you have a performance for the ages by the aged.
Jimenez, 50, was the most impressive. After a rocky second-round 76, his putter got hot and he posted a dazzling 66 on Saturday, leaving him two shots off the lead after 54 holes. He could not work the same magic with his flat stick on Sunday, shooting 71. “I played very solid tee to green today, but I putt a little cold,” he said after his round, taking time during the conversation to light up a cigar.
The 54-year-old Couples started the day four strokes back and quickly birdied the first two holes to go to 3-under, just two behind the leaders, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth, who had yet to tee off. But Couples’ putter, too, cooled off and his chances of securing another Green Jacket vanished when he three-putted Nos. 8 and 10. As for Langer, 56, his 3-under-par final round enabled him to finish at even par, tied with Jimmy Walker and Rory McIlroy, among others.
Some observers may wonder how so many oldsters could perform so well on a course that demands such length off the tee and touch around the greens. But Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, said he was not surprised by his cohorts' success.
“One of the reasons we do so well is that we have played this Tournament so many times,” Couples explained. “We know the course and wind and know how to play it.”
Staying competitive is a factor as well, whether it is Couples and Langer battling on the Champions Tour or Jimenez still playing on the European PGA Tour in hopes of securing a place on the Ryder Cup team. It keeps them mentally and physically sharp and makes them believe they can still win against players less than half their age.
Can a senior realistically win the Masters? “Why not?” says Jimenez. “Freddie plays nice. Bernhard plays nice. I play nice. We have a chance.”
They certainly did in 2014.