Where else on the biggest stage that a professional sport offers can one find an aging legend going toe-to-toe with a young phenom?
The Masters Tournament on Saturday, that’s where.
In one of the more exemplary pairings, a 35-year age difference separated 57-year-old Masters champion Fred Couples and 22-year-old rookie Jon Rahm when they teed off together at 2:30 p.m.
Although both would have enjoyed a better finish to their rounds, they didn’t disappoint patrons who chose to spend their day following the popular players.
“It is a big age difference,” said Rahm, playing in his first Masters. “I mean, Freddie is loved everywhere and especially here. He’s like an idol. He’s such a great person and such a fun guy to play with.”
Couples said his round with Rahm was fun and praised him for his talent and gesture on No. 18.
“Jon is a great, great player who plays a wonderful game,” said Couples, who is playing in his 32nd Masters Tournament. “Our games are so opposite, I pretty much watched him play and I couldn’t get much from him since he drives it so far and hits his irons so far.”
Couples, the winner of the 1992 Masters, two years before Rahm was born, shot 2-over 74 and sits tied for 17th at 1-over heading into Sunday’s final round.
The long-hitting Rahm, who averaged 308.7 yards on his drives Saturday, is tied for 11th sitting at even par after his Saturday round of 1-over.
Rahm was at 3-under for the tournament after 11, but his round was derailed a bit on No. 12. He found water on his tee shot and walked off with a double bogey.
“I’m quite disappointed with the round,” Rahm said. “I started off playing great golf. I felt so good up until 12. Even the shot at 12 felt perfect but we got a gust of wind that was unexpected.”
On No. 18, Rahm hit his third shot two feet from the pin, inside Couples’ second shot sitting at 14 feet from the pin.
Rahm went first, making his par putt.
“Jon said to me, ‘I’m going to putt out to give you your glory, but you better make it,’” Couples said. “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll make it, I’ve made so many today. I might as well make this one, too.’”
Couples missed the 14-footer, settling for par.
Couples was showered with encouraging words from the patrons all day, and his birdie 4 at No. 2 brought out a loud roar.
“It got going downhill for both of us and we didn’t exchange too many words on the last three holes, especially since I was in the woods on both holes,” Rahm said. “But the support Freddie gets is amazing. And you know, that got me going too.”
Couples said he does feel the love from the patrons.
“We were three or four groups from (the) end, and for a long time I was hitting shot after shot,” Couples said. “You hear the people and they’re rooting hard for you. It’s very nice.”