Experience still matters at Augusta National - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Experience still matters at Augusta National

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Phil Mickelson chips to the sixth green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 8, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. Phil Mickelson chips to the sixth green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 8, 2011, in Augusta, Ga.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — For all the talk of golf's new generation, experience still counts at the Masters.

Fifty-one-year-old Fred Couples charged up the board Friday, pushing his score to 5 under and within three strokes of co-leaders K.J. Choi and Rory McIlroy.

Couples won the Masters in 1993 and made a serious run at another green jacket last year. He led after the first round and wound up sixth, seven strokes behind winner Phil Mickelson.

After an opening 71 Thursday, Couples had four birdies over the first 12 holes, strolling around the course in comfortable golf sneakers like he owns the place. If he can keep it going, he'll again have a shot at becoming the oldest major champion ever.

McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros led after the first round, both at 7-under 65, and the freckle-faced kid from Northern Ireland sliced another shot off his score with a birdie at the second hole.

Quiros also got to 8 under before a bogey at the ninth knocked him back. His first-round score was 10 strokes better than his previous best at the Masters, and he showed no immediate signs of fading even though a stiffening breeze put some teeth in Augusta.

The 40-year-old Choi was on quite a roll. The South Korean, who has never won a major title, birdied five of the last six holes Thursday for a 67, then shot a 3-under 33 on the front side Friday — meaning he had played a stretch of 15 holes at 8 under.

Choi has been a contender at Augusta before. In 2004, he finished third. A year ago, he was right in the mix all four days until slipping to a tie for fourth.

Another South Korean, 2009 PGA champion Y.E. Yang, birdied three straight holes early on and briefly snatched the lead by pushing his score to 8 under. Consecutive bogeys at the ninth and 10th stymied his momentum.

The 21-year-old McIlroy is one of golf's rising stars, and he teed off shortly after lunchtime looking to avoid the sort of meltdown that ruined his chances at last year's British Open.

After opening with a 63, he got caught up in the howling winds of St. Andrews and soared to an 80. He fought back to finish third, followed by another third-place showing at the PGA Championship, and helped the Europeans win the Ryder Cup.

Ricky Barnes, who was runner-up at the U.S. Open two years ago, was at 2 under on the day and 6 under for the tournament, just two strokes back in a tie with Yang.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson continued his up-and-down play but was still in contention at 3 under. He scrambled for a 70 in the first round despite hitting fewer fairways than anyone in the 99-player field.

It was another warm day, the temperature expected to climb into the mid-80s with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. The forecast called for readings in the low 90s by Sunday.

Four-time champion Tiger Woods was in the next-to-last group, so he should have a good idea of the score he'll need to post to make a serious charge. He opened with a 71.

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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