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Rediff.com  » Sports » Augusta Masters Round Up: Bubba Watson leads at halfway stage

Augusta Masters Round Up: Bubba Watson leads at halfway stage

April 12, 2014 12:29 IST

Augusta Masters Round Up: Bubba Watson leads at halfway stage

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Bubba Watson made five birdies in a row to snatch the halfway lead at the 78th Masters on Friday as Augusta National turned on some of its favourite sons.

The roars that normally echo through the Georgian pines were replaced by groans and sighs as some of golf's biggest names, including Phil Mickelson, failed to make it past the second round.

While most of the world's best golfers struggled to make par in the brutally tough conditions, the free-swinging Watson surged into contention for a second green jacket in three years.

The American produced a masterful display on the back nine to grab the outright lead at seven-under-par and hold a three-shot advantage over Australia's John Senden.

Another four players, including defending champion Adam Scott, were tied for third at three-under on a congested leaderboard.

The Australian battled to a 72 to join Denmark's Thomas Bjorn (68), Swede Jonas Blixt (71) and American Jordan Spieth (70), the last pair being among the record 24 rookies in the field.

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Image: US golfer Bubba Watson bites his club after a good tee shot
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters

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Back nine surge keeps Scott in contention

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Adam Scott, who has honed the art of patience at the majors in recent years, kept his Masters title defence on track with a superb back nine in difficult conditions on Friday.

Just as he did last year on the way to his maiden victory in a major, the Australian world number two shrugged off a shaky start to the second round, three birdies after the turn helping him card a level-par 72 at a sun-baked Augusta National.

That left him at three-under 141 in the first of the year's four major championships, four strokes behind pacesetting American Bubba Watson, the 2012 winner.

"It was very difficult out there today," Scott told reporters after recovering from an outward nine of three-over 39 in firm, fast-running conditions. "Anything even par or better at a major is normally a good score, especially today.

"It kept me in the tournament. I was certainly aware of 10, 11 and 12 playing difficult and knew that I had to start hitting some quality shots.

"But I hit two really quality shots on the ninth that felt like the best swings I had made to that point. I wanted to keep that feeling for the back nine. I played a really good back nine. It was really solid."

Scott, who had been one stroke off the pace overnight, sprayed his opening tee shot into a fairway bunker en route to a bogey at the par-four first, and also faltered at the fourth and fifth to slide back to level par for the tournament.

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Image: Adam Scott of Australia watches a putt on the first green
Photographs: Rob Carr/Getty Images

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Six, six, six proves devilishly frustrating for McIlroy

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Three sixes proved devilishly irritating for Rory McIlroy in the second round as the world number nine survived the halfway cut at the Masters on Friday by the skin of his teeth.

The 24-year-old Northern Irishman had sixes at the second, 10th and 13th holes and needed to roll in a par-saving six-foot putt at the last for a five-over 77 and a four-under total of 148, qualifying for the weekend by one solitary stroke.

"That was very frustrating," McIlroy told reporters at Augusta National. "I really couldn't get anything to go my way.

"I didn't know if it was going to be a 10-shot rule that was going to come into play," he added after winding up 11 strokes adrift of tournament leader Bubba Watson of the United States.

"It is a bit of a sigh of relief that I'm here for the weekend."

Twice major winner McIlroy had to contend with a bad break at the par-five 13th when his ball took a kangaroo-style leap off a sprinkler at the back of the green and finished deep in the azaleas.

"I've seen a lot of this golf course in the last few years," he said, referring to the calamitous 80 he shot in 2011 after going into the last round holding a four-stroke lead.

"Yeah, it was a bad shot on 13. I didn't quite deserve that though, hitting the sprinkler."

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Image: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland get a club from his caddie JP Fitzgerald
Photographs: David Cannon/Getty Images

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Mickelson heads long list of big names to miss Masters cut

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Triple champion Phil Mickelson led a host of big names to miss the cut at the Masters on Friday as the American failed to advance to the third round at Augusta National for the first time in 17 years.

Former winners Charl Schwartzel (2011), Zach Johnson (2007), Angel Cabrera (2009) and Trevor Immelman (2008) also failed to qualify for the final two rounds.

US PGA champion Jason Dufner, former World No 1 Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley were other victims of the cut.

World number nine Rory McIlroy went through to the weekend by the skin of his teeth after sinking a six-foot par-saving putt at the 18th for a 77 and a four-over tally of 148.

Left-hander Mickelson tripled-bogeyed the tricky par-three 12th on the way to a one-over 73, missing out by one stroke on 149.

The world number five was one of the pre-tournament favourites heading into the opening major of the year but never recovered enough ground after opening with a 76 that included two sevens on a layout running fast and firm.

"I didn't play great, I didn't play bad," Mickelson told reporters. "I just had one bad hole there at 12 and I keep making these triple bogeys, they're tough to overcome.

"The golf course was awesome today and I felt there were some birdies out there. The greens were receptive and the wind is what made it tricky.

"I thought it was a really fun challenge."


Image: Phil Mickelson of the United States walks off
Photographs: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

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