Notebook: Older stars show age just a number
By Mark Long, Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples made the Masters one for the ages – the older ages for sure.
The 50-somethings were good early and late at Augusta National, providing the leaderboard with a little nostalgia throughout golf's first major.
"I think it's a statement," Langer said. "There's a lot of good over-50 players. We can compete at the highest level, even on a very, very long golf course like this one."
The 50-year-old Jimenez led the charge, shooting a 1-under 71 in the final round and finishing four strokes behind winner Bubba Watson in fourth place. The 56-year-old Langer (69) was two shots better Sunday and finished tied for eighth. The 54-year-old Couples faded a bit with a final-round 75, but still ended up in the top 20.
"If you don't want to be here at 50, you shouldn't be here," Jimenez said. "I love the game, I love competing and probably that is the reason."
Langer said guys are working harder to stay in shape.
"A lot of guys used to say, `I don't want to be on the senior tour, so I'll just quit when I'm 40 or 45 or something like that," Langer said. "It's all changed now."
The pre-tournament talk centered on the 24 Masters rookies, including six amateurs, in the field. First-timers Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt finished tied for second.
Having Jimenez, Langer and Couples in the hunt was equally startling. Then again, Jimenez believes any one of them could have won.
"Why not? Why not?" he said. "Fred Couples played nice. Langer played nice. I played nice, too. To win a tournament, you need to hit the ball well, putt good and go play. If you are able and ready to play, you got a chance."
RETURN TRIP: The top-12 finishers and ties get an automatic invitation to play the Masters next year.
That's great news for youngsters like Jonas Blixt, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
"When you shoot under par at Augusta National on a Sunday, you should be pretty happy," Blixt said. "Now, Bubba Watson played better. I got beat, and he deserves to win. ... But I learned a lot today, have a lot more new experiences and can't wait to come back."
Stewart Cink has some work to do to get another invitation.
Cink got a five-year exemption for winning the 2009 British Open, which ends this year. He closed with a 4-under 68 Sunday, coming up one stroke shy of landing a spot in the 2015 field.
LOW AMATEUR: Oliver Goss became the first Australian to finish as the low amateur at the Masters.
Goss, who turned 20 on Saturday, was awarded the Silver Cup after his 49th-place finish. The low amateur must make the 36-hole cut to be eligible for the award, which began in 1952.
"I can't believe it," Goss said after a 3-over 75 that left him plus 10 for the tournament. "To be the first (Australian) is really quite unbelievable. ... I've just got to step back now and have a look at the entire week and just learn as much as I can from the whole week."
Goss plans to play the U.S. Open as an amateur in June and then decide whether to turn pro.
DIVOTS: Bubba Watson became the first 54-hole leader to go on and win a major since Rory McIlroy at the 2012 PGA Championship. ... The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing 20 of the last 24 years, with Zach Johnson (2007), Charl Schwartzel (2011), Watson (2012) and Adam Scott (2013) the exceptions. ... Left-handers Watson (2012, 2014), Mike Weir (2003) and Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010) have won six of the last 12 Masters. ... Americans have won nine of the last 15 Masters.