Bubba Watson is making his move at Augusta, reeling off five straight birdies to get to 8-under for a four-shot lead at the Masters. While he was one stroke worse than the 4-under round of Bill Haas, I thought Watson had the most impressive loop on Thursday. It was so un-Bubba, as the long-hitting shot wizard generally played it safe, making no bogeys and then pouncing on the gettable par-5s. He bombed away and converted those chances at Nos. 13 and 15, and he's making his run there again on the second nine at Augusta.
It took Bubba 26 holes before he gave his first shot back, his first misfire coming at No. 9. But he made the turn and was right back in form, charging to the co-lead and zooming past with five straight birdies on holes 12 through 16.
At No. 12, which has wrecked more rounds than any other hole this week, Bubba lofted his tee sheet over Rae's Creek and dropped it right on top of the stick to clean up a birdie. The 13th sets up perfectly for Watson, who can shape shots better than any player in the world, and he just quickly bombs fades around the sharp dogleg left to set up an approach that gets him home in two there. He converted the birdie there on Friday again, as expected.
But the red number on the 14th, however, was totally unexpected. Bubba did the work with putter at 14, which doesn't have the signature identity of all the other holes on the second nine, but probably has the most severe green on the course. It's really hard to get it close to the hole at 14, and Watson faced one of those crazy, bending putts down a steep slope for birdie. He was probably just trying to lag it close for the par and get out of there, but instead it went right in the center for a bonus birdie:
That's just extra for a player who was already playing well before this week. With that birdie behind him, the shot at four straight was likely because of another gettable par 5 that came next.
Much like 13, Bubba was able to get up around the green in two at the par-5 15th, the easiest scoring hole on the course. A nice little chip-and-putt later and he had his fourth straight birdie. So he was getting a few birdies we'd expect, a couple we wouldn't at the tough 12th and with the putter at 14. You figured the train would run out at the 16th, but again with iron in hand, the 2012 champ put his tee shot in the perfect spot at the back of the green, using the grade to funnel his ball back to the left pin location. Bubba watched the near hole-in-one with anticipation as it slowly came toward the cup, biting down on his club:
It's all working right now and even with Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott just getting started, Watson should have a multi-shot lead at the end of the day. After almost a two-year drought since that win at Augusta, Bubba's been back in form through the first quarter of this year, winning at Riviera and finishing second two other times. If he keeps playing close to this, he won't need a playoff to get his second green jacket.