Watson leads Masters as favorites struggle

Fri Apr 11, 2014 7:05pm EDT
 
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By Julian Linden

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Bubba Watson rolled in five birdies in a row to hold the outright lead late in the second round of the 78th Masters on Friday and surge into contention for a second green jacket in three years.

While most of the world's best golfers struggled to make par in brutally tough conditions at Augusta National, Watson produced a masterful display to grab the clubhouse lead at seven-under 137.

That left him with a three-shot lead over Australia's John Senden and a four-shot advantage over four players - Australia's defending champion Adam Scott and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Sweden's Jonas Blixt and American Jordan Spieth, who are among the record 24 rookies in the field.

Scott dropped three shots on his front nine to slip seven shots off the pace but picked up successive birdies at Amen Corner and another at the 15th to move into a tie for third with two holes to play.

Fred Couples, the 1992 champion, finished with a 71 to join Jimmy Walker at minus-two while three-time winner Phil Mickelson was in serious danger of missing the cut for the first time in 17 years after finishing the day at five-over.

Watson, who won the championship in an epic playoff two years ago, followed up his opening 69 with a sparking four-under-par 68, matching the best score of the championship.

The maverick left-hander made his first bogey of the tournament at the ninth hole and also dropped a shot at the last when he missed a short putt but reeled off five successive birdies from the 12th to seize control of the first major of the year.

"It's not science here," Watson said. "All I'm trying to do is just hit the greens, that means my tee shots are good and two putts, maybe throw in a birdie here or there.   Continued...

 
U.S. golfer Bubba Watson waves after making a birdie on the 13th hole as Spain's Sergio Garcia places his ball during the second round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake