AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bubba Watson won the Masters two years ago with "Bubba golf," producing shots of raw skill and wild imagination. His strategy now is to keep it simple, and that has positioned him for another green jacket.
Watson took over Augusta National on Friday with 75 minutes of brilliance and power. On another demanding day of crispy greens and swirling wind, he ran off five straight birdies on the back nine and wound up with 4-under 68 for a three-shot lead over John Senden at 7-under 137, the largest 36-hole lead at the Masters since Chad Campbell in 2006.
Senden qualified for the Masters last month with his win at the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor. After a rugged start, he played the final 14 holes Friday with six birdies and no bogeys for 68 that put him in the last group at a major on the weekend.
There's nothing fancy about Watson's golf, except for his outrageous length. He made only two bogeys in 36 holes. He missed only eight greens.
"It's not science here," Watson said. "It's try to hit the greens. And if you're hitting the greens, that means you're obviously hitting your tee shots well. So that's all I'm trying to do is just hit the greens … maybe throw in a birdie here or there. That's what I've done the last two days, and it's worked out so far."
Adam Scott also made a late recovery with three birdies on the back nine to salvage 72, along with his hopes to join Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the Masters back to back. Scott was at 3-under 141, four shots back along with Thomas Bjorn (68), Jonas Blixt (71) and Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old who looked solid on the mystifying greens and shot 70.
"Bubba is tearing it up," Spieth said, "so we've got to go get him."
Among those tearing it up negatively was first-round leader Bill Haas, who had a 10-shot swing from Round 1 to 2. His 6-over 78 had him 2 over for the tourney.
Phil Mickelson made another triple bogey — three shots from the bunkers on the par-3 12th hole — for 73 and missed the cut of 5-over 149 for the first time since 1997. Also leaving before the weekend were Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner.
Rory McIlroy nearly joined them. He hit one tee shot over the fourth green, past the head of Scott on the fifth tee and into the bushes for double bogey. Another shot hit a sprinkler head and landed in the azaleas behind the 13th green. He had to make a 6-foot par putt to make the cut at 4 over.
Watson's victory in the Northern Trust Open in February was his first since the 2012 Masters.
"How many green jackets you got?" he asked a reporter who wondered about the post-Masters hangover. "If you had one, you would celebrate it for a year or two."
Watson, 35, said he has been helped this week by not having all the attention on him. He didn't have to host the Champions Dinner. He didn't have to go through the process of returning the green jacket. "You're asked: 'Can you defend? How are you going to play?' I didn't know how to handle it," he said of last year's Masters. "This time I could enjoy the Champions Dinner. I got to be a bystander."
As for his game, Watson said he is simply trying to hit greens, as if this were a U.S. Open. And he's not getting down on himself when things go south.
"I'm a professional golfer," said the native of the Florida Panhandle town of Bagdad. "I made it to the Masters. So, obviously, I can play a little bit."