Watson steams into Masters lead

Bubba Watson carded four-under-par 68 to claim a three-shot lead after Friday’s second round of the Masters at Augusta.

The American has given himself a real chance of picking up a second Masters win in three years after compiling another quality round at the Georgia course, largely thanks to a five-hole birdie spree on the back nine.

After a solid but unspectacular one-birdie, one-bogey front nine, Watson caught fire on the back, nailing five successive birdies from the 12th, and the birdie at the short 16th was very nearly a hole-in one.

“I thought that was it,” he admitted after the round.

“I thought it was going in.”

But for a disappointing bogey at the final hole, where he hit a poor approach and an even poorer putt for par, his lead might have been even bigger.

On Thursday, Watson said he was happy to be able to return to Augusta and fly under the radar.

“I’m coming back with a different mindset, full of energy,” Watson said.

“I haven’t had any media this week, because nobody cares about the guy a couple of years ago. So it’s been good.

“You are not the main man, the champions’ dinner is not about you. Somehow I was lost in the crowd a little so I could go about my practice rounds without much attention.

“This year I’m trying to get the (green) jacket back. You want that feeling again, you want that back.

“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.

“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.”

In second place on four-under-par is Australia’s John Senden, who followed up his level-par 72 with a 68 in the second round.

Defending champion Adam Scott (72) and three other players – Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn (68) and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt (71) and American Jordan Spieth (70) – were another stroke further behind on three-under.

The 1992 champion Fred Couples carded a 71 to reach the halfway mark on two-under, alongside join Jimmy Walker (72) and Jim Furyk (68) for a tie of seventh place.

The only other players under par after two rounds – at one-under – are Jamie Donaldson (70), Stephen Gallacher (72), Russell Henley (70), Kevin Stadler (73) and Kevin Streelman (71).

Three-time former champion Phil Mickelson missed the cut at Augusta for the first time in 17 years after following up his first round 76 with a 73 on Friday.

The left-hander missed out by a single stroke, largely due to a mishap on the 12th, which saw him land in the bunker on three occasions on the hole.

“I didn’t play great. I didn’t play bad,” Mickelson said after the round.

“I just had one bad hole there at 12. And I keep making these triples, they’re tough to overcome.”

Mickelson, however, wasn’t the only high-profile player to miss out on the cut this time around.

Four-time major winner Ernie Els (74), his South African compatriot and 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel (76), former world number one Luke Donald (70), Sergio Garcia (75) all finished on five-over as well.

Overnight leader Bill Hass tumbled down the leaderboard to finish on two-over after shooting a 78, while 2012 runner-up Louis Oosthuizen (75) finished at level par after a disastrous triple bogey on the 15th.