While one lefty former champion was bowing out of the Masters, another was distancing himself from the field. Bubba Watson fired a second-round 68 to take the outright lead at the Masters headed into the weekend.
"I'm trying to get that jacket back," Watson told ESPN after his round. "You want that feeling back."
He tamed an Augusta National course that chewed up and spit out major champions such as the aforementioned Phil Mickelson, as well as Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Trevor Immelman, and Zach Johnson -- all of whom either spent Friday fighting to make the cut, or simply burying themselves on the leaderboard.
Watson was three clear of the field after two rounds. Australian John Senden was in second at 4-under after a 68 on Friday.
Watson's round started unspectacularly, as he was sitting at even par on the day at the turn. But he absolutely destroyed the second nine, rolling in five consecutive birdie putts en route to a 32.
The run started on the par-3 12th and continued through both the par-5 13th and 15th, with a three at No. 14 sandwiched between. It culminated spectacularly with a birdie at the par-3 16th after his tee shot rolled to within five feet. Afterward, Watson said he thought he was looking at an ace, given the way the crowd reacted behing the green.
"I thought that was it," he said. "I thought it was going in."
Watson finished his round with a par at No. 17 followed by a disappointing bogey at the closing hole, entering the clubhouse three strokes clear of the field. And as impressive as the streak of birdies was, it wasn't the best Augusta had seen. The record for consecutive birdies at the Masters is seven, held by Tiger Woods and Steve Pate.
An interesting fact to contemplate with Bubba leading heading into Saturday's third round: Watson has won just once in eight tries when leading after 36 holes. If he's able to keep pace from his second nine Friday, he won't have much to worry about.
His final hole, however, did at least plant that seed of doubt. A shaky approach -- which Watson blamed on a "mud ball" as his shot was in flight -- was followed eventually by an ugly par stroke. Watson has the tendency to implode, and it makes you wonder if Friday's round ended just in time.
Still, at least as of Friday afternoon, this is shaping up to be Watson's tournament to lose. Conditions are reportedly getting tougher as the day goes on -- that was certainly the case Friday -- so it's unlikely someone will post better than 7-under. Two solid weekend rounds, and the jacket will be his again.