A heady tale of two former Masters Champions
Two past champions, two very different rounds. Fred Couples defied his 52 years to breeze into a share of the Masters lead; Tiger Woods appeared a man beset by demons as he fought to stay in the tournament.
Couples fired a stunning 67 to join fellow American Jason Dufner at the top of the leaderboard, 20 years after claiming the Green Jacket.
With a laid-back, easy-going demeanour, long, smooth swing and an ability to keep performing at the Masters, Couples is a firm crowd favourite.
"He's just cool. I hope I'm that cool when I'm 52," said Rory McIlroy.
Despite being beset by back problems, Couples - nicknamed "Boom Boom" earlier in his career because of his power - is a course specialist at Augusta and went close as recently as 2010 when he finished sixth after leading with a first-round 66.
"For someone of 52 to still be competitive at the highest level is a remarkable effort," said BBC commentator Ken Brown, who first played with him in the 1984 Open at St Andrews.
"He was a huge hitter then and he has maintained that lovely rhythm. It's amazing how far he still hits it which makes him very competitive around Augusta.
American Fred Couples won his last and only Masters in 1992. Photo: Getty
"Playing good golf in your 20s is hard enough but it gets increasingly harder due to flexibility. You've also got to have the resilience to enjoy hard competitive golf, but it appears to be an easy game for him, which allows him to carry on a bit longer.
"The crowd could make a huge impact. Everyone loves Freddie and if he can hold his nerve there could be some huge roars at the weekend."
Couples was also third in 2006 after being paired with eventual winner Phil Mickelson in the final round, and came second behind Mark O'Meara in 1998. And he holds the joint record of 23 consecutive made cuts (from 1983-2007) along with Gary Player.
His 1992 win featured an iconic chip, from just a foot or so above the water of Rae's Creek, after his tee shot to the par-three 12th came up short and defied gravity to lodge on the bank.
There is no reason Couples shouldn't stay in the mix, though, other than fatigue and his back playing up, but should he win again on Sunday, he would become the oldest Masters champion, ahead of Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won in 1986. "I feel like I'm very young when I get here," said Couples, who traded the world number one spot with Nick Faldo in 1992.
"To win it once was truly amazing, and to play well here a lot, I think, is because I really know the golf course.
"I believe I can win."
If he does, he would also be quizzed in the Butler Cabin by CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz, who was his roommate during their time on the University of Houston golf team.
Woods's belief, meanwhile, must have disappeared as quickly as the control of his swing, as the four-time champion pulled a succession of tee shots and hit a host of wayward irons. Cursing, dropping clubs in despair and even kicking one on the 16th tee, the former world number one had the air of a man with terminal frustration and no ideas left.
The pre-tournament favourite is caught between two swings, two philosophies. There are the old moves of ex-coach Hank Haney and the new patterns of Sean Foley. On top of that, Foley's short-game technique is creeping into Woods's long game. All are conflicting. And despite a stunning win a few weeks ago, Woods is struggling to override the problem when it occurs. How ironic, that Couples's long-term caddie and best friend Joe LaCava accepted the offer to work with Woods not so long ago.
But for all his angst, Woods ground out a 75 to make the cut by two in circumstances that might have shattered a lesser man.
"It's amazing the way he keeps grinding even though he is playing like a drain," said Brown.
"It's a testament to his fortitude that he just keeps going."
Commentating on American television, Faldo was less charitable.
"I think we can officially say that Tiger has lost his game - and his mind right now," he said. "He has not got a clue how to get the clubface onto the ball."
Woods maintains he is still in contention, but at eight shots adrift, he will have to equal the record for the biggest halfway comeback, set by Jack Burke in 1956.
Saturday is traditionally "Moving Day", when the field sorts itself out for the final push. And with 23 players under par and within five shots of the lead, there could be some traffic to negotiate.
World number two McIlroy, who looks well-placed just one shot adrift, as does third-ranked Lee Westwood, who led after the first round.
Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson are also four under, while three-time champion Mickelson is two further back.
"There's a lot of guys that will think they have a chance over the next two days," said McIlroy, who led for three rounds last year before collapsing.
"You look at the names on the leaderboard, and there isn't one style of golf.
"There's a lot of different ways to get the ball around the golf course. Some guys can do it with their short game and some guys can do it with their long game. That's Augusta in a nutshell."