Tuesday
July 22, 2014

Golf— Augusta Masters

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bubba Watson blasts in the lead

Bubba Watson holds up his ball after a birdie on the 16th green.
Argentine title winner in 2009 Ángel Cabrera misses the cut

Bubba Watson rolled in five birdies in a row to hold the outright lead late in the second round of the 78th Masters yesterday. Former champion Ángel Cabrera of Argentina did not pass the cut.

AUGUSTA — Bubba Watson turned into the star of yesterday’s second round at the Masters, posting a 4-under par 68 that included a stirring five birdie run from the 12th to the 16th.

Watson leads by three from John Senden (also 68), with four players sharing a tie for third, a group that includes defending champion Adam Scott and veteran Dane Thomas Bjørn.

Overnight leader Bill Haas struggled, dropping four shots from the 9th to the 12th and closed with disappointing 77. Rory McIlroy posted 77 but still claimed a weekend qualifying slot at +4, the cut highline.

A total of 14 players finished under par at the halfway stage and those missing the halfway cut include Ángel Cabrera, unable to overcome his opening round 78.

In blustery conditions Watson demonstrated awesome ball control, long high drives and soft dropping approach irons that provide a level of control into Augusta National’s speedy greens unavailable to shorter hitters.

The 2012 Masters champion came within inches of a hole in one at the 16th but at the 18th after his approach iron bounced hard left of the green, the left-hander finally proved fallible when a short par-save slid past the hole.

Unlike those who consider outside-the-ropes encouragement a positive motivator, interestingly Watson says he tries to stay disassociated from spectator hullabaloo. Speaking of that five-birdie run, he said he just tries to stay focused on what he’s doing and to the exclusion of all else.

“You’re not thinking you just made a birdie or your second birdie or your third birdie, you’re just trying to make the cut somehow,” he said. “The roars are good. But when you’re focused, if you watch me throughout the last two holes, I keep my head down, just so I don’t get energized, just so I don’t get pumped up, just to stay focused on what I’m doing and committed to what I’m doing.”

At age 43, Bjørn is eleven years removed from his meltdown loss in the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges. But after some swing changes he’s in resurgent mode, a 2014 European Tour winner, his 15th career title and yesterday, after his solid second round, tied for third.

“I felt comfortable on the golf course today (yesterday) and that’s always a sign that you’ve got a good idea of where your golf swing is,” Bjørn said. “Because if you’re not in control of what you’re doing you don’t feel comfortable on this golf course.”

McIlroy’s swing seemed out of sorts, his troubles starting at the par-3 4th. There his tee shot was so close to an out-of-bounds fence and deep in bushes he deemed it safer to return to the tee, take a stroke-and-distance penalty, finally carding a sand-save double-bogey five. The young Irishman’s troubles continued into the back nine, starting 6, 5, 3, 6. The 13th summed up his day. What seemed like a perfectly safe second to the par five hit a sprinkler head and bounced high and hard into the azaleas behind the green.

Scott started with three bogeys in his first five holes but remained patient, recovering the deficit with three back-nine birdies up to the 18th, where an errant drive might have cost him dearly; but as luck would have it a space through the trees allowed him to punch out to a greenside bunker, from where he saved a four for even-par 72.

Good weather is forecast for the rest of the championship, mildly warm and breezy, perfect conditions for a still wide-open championship.

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