Augusta: Bubba Watson rolled in five birdies in a row to snatch the outright lead 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 were struggling just to make par in brutally tough conditions at Augusta National, Watson produced a masterful display to grab the early clubhouse lead.
The American, who won the Championship in an epic playoff two years ago, followed up his opening 69 with a four-under-par 68 to reach the halfway stage at seven under.
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.
That left him with a three-shot advantage over his nearest rivals, overnight leader Bill Haas and fellow American Jimmy Walker, who were both at four under with more than half their rounds to finish and the firming course playing even harder.
With the wind starting to pick up, making the notoriously fast greens even more difficult to read, the traditional roars around the Georgian pines were replaced by groans and sighs.
On Thursday, Haas tied his lowest score in a Major to snatch the lead while holder Scott experienced a real sense of deja vu in the opening round. Rory McIlroy, the 12-1 pre-tournament favourite along with Australian Scott, launched his campaign with a 71.
The 31-year-old Haas hit the front after bagging three birdies on each nine, including a six-footer at the last that gave him his first three at the 18th at the 17th career attempt.
The pin at the final hole was typical of the tricky flag positions on day one, tucked in on the corner of the putting surface.
Scott felt less than comfortable with the shortest club in the bag, as evidenced by his three-putts for par on the long 13th and 15th.
The world No. 2 was also one of several victims of the notorious Amen Corner stretch — holes 11, 12 and 13.