April 12, 2014 (ISN) – American Bubba Watson holds a three-shot lead at the halfway point of this year’s US Masters after a blistering run of five straight birdies on the back nine saw the 2012 champion post a round of 68 and put himself in pole position to claim a second title at the Augusta National Golf Club.
The 35-year-old left hander began the day on three-under-par, one shot off the lead held by compatriot Bill Haas, and took advantage of his earlier tee-off time when there was less wind around and the greens were more receptive.
A steady front nine saw Watson reach the turn on level-par before a clinker of a tee-shot at the notoriously difficult 12th hole left him with a relatively simple putt for birdie and signalled the start of his charge.
Further birdies at 13, 14, 15 and 16 had the man from Florida in with a chance of equalling the record of seven back-to-back birdies at the Masters held by Steve Pate in 1999 and four-time champion Tiger Woods in 2005.
But Watson could only manage a par at the 17th before slightly spoiling his day by missing the 18th with his approach and finishing with a bogey.
Despite that final hole, Watson sits on seven-under-par and has posted two sub-70 opening rounds at a major for the first time in his career.
“I’m trying to get the jacket back,” said Watson afterwards.
“I want that feeling again.
“It’s not science here, it’s try to hit the greens.
“If I can hit greens that means I’ve hit good tee shots, and I hit good irons shots and just trying to make par from there and throw in a birdie here and there.
“That’s really all I was doing and that’s what I’ve done the last two days and it’s worked out so far.”
Defending champion Adam Scott of Australia joins Sweden’s Jonas Blixt on three-under after shooting a level-par round of 72, leaving them four off the lead, while another Australian matched Watson’s round of 68 and sits alone in second.
John Senden came into the first major of the year in good form after winning last month’s Tampa Bay Classic.
The man from Brisbane was two-over after four holes but stormed up the leaderboard with six birdies in his next 11 to leave himself well placed going into the weekend.
A number of big names will be watching the final two days from home as three-time champion Phil Mickelson, 2009 winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina, four-time major winner Ernie Els of South Africa and England’s former world number one Luke Donald all missed the four-over-par cut.
South Africa’s former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen began the day just one shot off the lead but endured a frustrating finish to his round by making a triple-bogey at 15, before dropping another shot at the last to cancel out his eagle at the 13th hole.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was another to find the going tough at Augusta as he followed up his 71 yesterday with a 77 today to only just make the field for the final two days, while overnight leader Haas had a nightmare second round carding 78, a full 10 shots more than his opening round, but still made the cut finishing on two-over for the tournament.
The US Masters continues through until Sunday (April 13).