AUGUSTA, Ga. – Louis Oosthuizen made a snowman, Phil Mickelson was buried in a bunker escapade on the short 12th hole and Marc Leishman went from the lead to the parking lot in about three hours.
On a Friday full of mayhem and destruction, few were safe amid the steady winds and perilous edges of Augusta National Golf Club during the second round of the 78th Masters. Par was your buddy and birdie was a conquest as gusts reached 25 mph and steady winds of 15-20 mph whistled through the majestic pines and whipped most of the best players in the world.
Overnight leader Bill Haas went from 4 under to 2 over in five holes. With his tee shot on the par-3 fourth hole, Rory McIlroy nearly skulled reigning champion Adam Scott, who was teeing off on the fifth hole. And only 13 of the 97 starters are under par through 36 holes, led by pace-setter Bubba Watson, who moved to 7-under par and a three-shot lead with a 68.
Leishman, unfortunately, was the prominent symbol of the carnage. The "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" went birdie-birdie-birdie to start his round and reached 5 under. Then a bogey train pulled up and his game went off the rails – six bogeys and two double-bogeys in 13 holes. What once looked like a 69 turned into a 79 and an exit from the tournament.
"This is as tough as I've seen it," Leishman said of the conditions. "Saturday last year it was firm and fast, but there was no wind. The wind around here is just brutal because one minute it will be behind you and the next minute it's into you. And then there's none. It's hard to hit shots when you don't know where the wind is. It's hard to commit to it. But you have to at some stage."
Leaving the stage after missing the cut were Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley.
But not all were beaten down in the second round. Comfortable once again at the theater that is Augusta National, Watson, the 2012 champion, is back to his free-wheeling ways but with much more control. He had five consecutive birdies on the back nine.
The big lefty with the big driver from Bagdad, Fla., has dominated the course that so many others have struggled with. With a 4-under-par 68 coupled with his opening 69, Watson took a three-shot lead over John Senden (68). Another shot back is Thomas Bjorn (68), Jonas Blixt (71), Jordan Spieth (70) and Scott (72), who is trying to become just the fourth player to win back-to-back green jackets.
"It's not science here – you try to hit the greens, and if you're hitting the greens that means you're obviously hitting your tee shots well," said Watson, who won earlier this year in the Northern Trust Open and nearly won the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. "So that's all I'm trying to do – hit the greens, take two putts, 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."
What also has been working this year is his recommitment to the game and his attitude. At the start of the year, he told himself it would be a year of rejoicing, that he would worry less about his game and concentrate more on his commitments as a husband, father and Christian.
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"So when you hang your head because you shot 77 in the last round or an 80 in the last round, it really doesn't mean anything," he said.
The 2014 Watson looks much better than the 2013 version, and through two rounds, no one has looked better.
"He's hardly missed a shot the last couple days," said Donald, who played the first two rounds with Watson. "He's dominating the course with his length and just leaving it in the right spots. He's not taking too much risk on. When he has wedge and sand wedge, he can go fire at some pins and he's been able to stop it. He can move it both ways and being a left-hander moving left‑to‑right around some of these holes is a lot easier. It shows because Phil's had a lot of success here, too."
Mickelson hasn't this year. Fearing that he had not piled up enough competitive rounds because of injuries to his back and side, the three-time Masters winner made too many mistakes to make the cut.
At the 12th, he found the front bunker with his tee shot. He found the back bunker with his second shot. He again found the front bunker with his third shot. Finally, he landed his shot on grass and two-putted for six. With rounds of 76-73, he missed the cut by one.
"There was no sand where I was at," said Mickelson, who added that he will probably watch the Masters over the weekend because "it's kind of my punishment."
"I caught the liner of the bunker and bladed it across the green and the same thing happened on the other side," he said. "It went back and forth, three bunkers, before I finally got it to stay on grass."
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Oosthuizen couldn't keep his chip shot on the 15th to stay on the green en route to his triple-bogey 8. Over the green in two, Oosthuizen, who lost in a playoff to Watson two years ago, chipped up the hill toward the green and watched the ball keep rolling and rolling and rolling before finally stopping – in the pond fronting the green. After taking a penalty and hitting his fifth on to the green, he three-putted for 8.
Jason Day, who hadn't played since winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, made the cut on the number despite two four-putts and one three-putt. Despite spotting Watson 11 shots, Day hasn't given up hope.
"To be 7‑under on this course the way it's been set up the last couple of days is phenomenal," Day said. "There's been very difficult pin positions. I've said before that the green speeds and the firmness of the greens are very difficult for a lot of the players. It seems like he's handling that pretty well. I think he's only had maybe one dropped shot over the last 36 holes, so he's playing phenomenal golf.
"But then again, we still have 36 holes left and anything can happen, especially at Augusta."
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