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Gary Woodland shoots 30 on front side at Masters

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – With the leaders still waiting to tee off, Gary Woodland put on quite a show for the early arrivers at Augusta National.

The 29-year-old American had the patrons roaring on a Saturday morning with a 6-under 30 before the turn, matching the lowest score ever on the front side at the Masters.

Woodland became the first player since Phil Mickelson in the final round of the 2009 tournament to shoot 30 on the first nine holes. The only others to do it were K.J. Choi in 2004, Greg Norman in 1988 and Johnny Miller in 1975.

Unfortunately for Woodland, he ran into trouble in Amen Corner.

After another birdie at the 10th pushed his overall score to 4 under – just three shots behind 36-hole leader Bubba Watson – Woodland bogeyed the 11th and knocked it into Rae’s Creek at No. 12 for a double-bogey.

He bounced back with his sixth birdie of the round at the par-5 13th, pushing him to 2 under on a warm day with no hint of swirling breezes that can make Augusta National so treacherous.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, who became eligible for the Champions Tour when he turned 50 in January, was tied with Woodland at 2 under. The Spaniard shot 34 on the front side and took his score on the day to 5 under with three more birdies through the 14th.

Watson, looking to win his second Masters in three years, posted two rounds in the 60s for a 7-under 137 total, giving him a three-shot lead over Australian John Senden.

It was the largest 36-hole advantage since Chad Campbell went to the weekend up by three shots in 2006.

Defending champion Adam Scott was among the group four shots back, joined by Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, Jonas Blixt of Sweden, and Jordan Spieth, a 20-year-old Texan who was hardly playing like an Augusta rookie.

But early on, the day belonged to Woodland.

He got off to a blistering start with a birdie at the first hole and an eagle at the par 5 second. On the par-3 sixth, he stuck his tee shot left of the flag and let it funnel down to about 15 feet from the cup. He rapped in the putt for another birdie.

Booming drives and short wedges left him with easy birdies at the ninth (a 4-footer) and 10th (from just 2 feet away). At that point, a huge gallery had hooked up with Woodland’s group, the buzz quickly spreading around Augusta National that he was just three shots behind Watson and tied for second with Senden.

Alas, the run ended when a tepid chip from behind the green at the 11th led to Woodland’s first bogey. Still shaken from that flub, he made an even bigger mistake with his tee shot at the 12th, the ball rolling back into the water. A pitch barely stayed on the edge of the green, and Woodland had to settle for a 5.

Rory McIlroy played in the first group with non-competing marker Jeff Knox, one of the country’s top amateur players who also happens to be an Augusta National member. The duo sped around the course in just 3 hours, 5 minutes, finishing up at 18 while the next group still had at least five holes to play.

McIlroy, who barely made the cut on Friday, birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 1-under 71. He needed the rally to beat Knox, who shot a 72 that won’t count in the official standings.

“Just put my ball in a couple of wrong positions going into greens and missed it in the wrong spots, and all of a sudden I’m 2 over standing on the 15 tee box,” McIlroy said. “It was nice to birdie three of the last four and shoot something under par. Obviously I wanted something a little better than that going out this morning.”
-Paul Newberry (www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963)

Bubba leads the pack

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Bubba Watson has his eyes on a second Masters title in three years. The 2012 champ takes a three-shot lead over Australian John Senden into today’s third round at Augusta National.

With more warm, dry weather in the forecast the course is expected to harden up, making scoring more difficult. Winds are expected in the 5-10 mph range.

Adam Scott is in position to challenge for his second straight green jacket. The defending champ is bunched in a group at 3-under par along with 20-year old Jordan Spieth.

Fifty-four year old Fred Couples is hoping to avoid a weekend slump that dropped him out of contention in each of the last three years. The 1992 champ is just five shots back, tied with Jim Furyk and three-time PGA Tour winner Jimmy Walker.

Watson and Senden tee off at 1:45.

This is when membership really does have its privileges.

Jeff Knox, one of the best amateur golfers who happens to be a member at Augusta National, was selected to serve as a non-competing marker at the Masters if there is an odd-number of players who make the cut. There were 51 players who advanced to Saturday. The first one out was none other than Rory McIlroy.

Knox spent Saturday morning playing alongside the two-time major champion.

Markers are required under Rule 6-6. Most times on the PGA Tour, and at the other majors, the marker simply keeps the score. In some cases, the marker plays. That’s not an option at the Masters. It’s club policy for a single to play with a non-competing marker – Knox, in this case.

The markers don’t have to keep their own score because they’re not part of the tournament. One took his role a bit too seriously, however. Fred Couples once told a story of having a non-competing marker call for a ruling because his shot on the fifth hole went long and under some magnolia trees. - Doug Ferguson, https://twitter.com/dougferguson405

More from Days 1-2

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Bubba Watson won the Masters two years ago with his brand of “Bubba golf,” producing shots of raw skill and wild imagination. His strategy now is to keep it simple, and he is halfway to another

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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 a 4-under 68 for a three-shot lead over John Senden.

There’s nothing fancy about his golf, except for his outrageous length. He has made only two bogeys in 36 holes. He has 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.”

Watson made bogey on the 18th hole with a shot that bounced left of the green and into the gallery. He finished at 7-under 137, giving him the largest 36-hole lead at the Masters since Chad Campbell in 2006.

Senden qualified for the Masters a month ago with his win at Innisbrook. After a rugged start, he played the final 14 holes with six birdies and no bogeys for a 68 that puts him in the last group at a major on the weekend.

Adam Scott also made a late recovery with three birdies on the back nine to salvage a 72, along with his hopes to join Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win back-to-back at Augusta. Scott was four shots back at 141, along with Thomas Bjorn (68), Jonas Blixt (71) and Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old from Texas who looked solid on the mystifying greens and shot a 70.

“Bubba is tearing it up,” Spieth said. “So we’ve got to go get him.”

The chase includes the ageless Fred Couples, who won the Masters a year before Spieth was born. Couples, cool as ever at 54, had another 71 and was five back.

Woods, who missed the Masters for the first time in 20 years because of back surgery, won’t be the only guy watching on television. Phil Mickelson made another triple bogey – three shots from the bunkers on the par-3 12th hole – for a 73 and missed the cut for the first time since 1997. So did 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 Adam Scott on the fifth tee and into the bushes for a 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 148.

Watson seems further away from the field than just three shots.

U.S. Open champion Justin Rose was nine shots behind, but not ready to give up because the leader often comes back to the field – although he admitted that former champs are less likely to collapse.

“But there’s no give on this golf course,” Rose said. “The hole can start looking awfully small, and those lakes can start to look awfully big.”

The only thing that looked big to Watson was the size of the cup.

His birdie streak started and ended with a 9-iron to short range on par 3s – 3 feet on the 12th, 4 feet on the 16th. He got up-and-down for birdies on the par 5s. And in the middle of that great run was a putt that defines the vexing greens of Augusta.

Watson had a 40-foot putt on the 14th hole that probably traveled 50 feet after it turned nearly 90 degrees to the left and rolled into the cup. Just his luck, Garcia had a chip shot that rolled over the spot where Watson had marked his putt and showed him the way.

“Without Sergio’s chip, I probably would have three-putted it,” Watson said.

That’s really the only break he needed in the second round. His golf is amazingly simple for such a complicated personality. Watson, whose victory at Riviera in February was his first since the 2012 Masters, said he was helped by not having all the attention on him this week. He didn’t have to host the Champions Dinner. He didn’t have to go through the process of returning the green jacket.

Even so, the Masters is just getting started.

The 36-hole leader goes on to win the Masters just over one-third of the time, and only two players – Mike Weir in 2003 and Trevor Immelman in 2008 – have done it since 2000. And while Watson is a major champion, this will be the first time he sleeps on the lead at a major.

“It’s starting to get pretty easy to drop shots out there,” Scott said. “Tomorrow is a big day for everyone.” - Doug Ferguson

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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