AUGUSTA, Ga. — Entering the interview room wearing a green jacket after the final round of the 2012 Masters, Bubba Watson left no doubt that winning the tournament meant everything to him.
What Watson probably didn’t realize was how much his life would change. With the demands on his time, the continuing euphoria about his initial major championship and learning how “to be a good dad,” he experienced a lull in his success that extended through the 2013 season.
Now, however, Watson appears at ease and confident and it’s showing in his play. In Friday’s second round at Augusta National Golf Club, the 35-year-old lefthander birdied five consecutive holes on the back nine and reached the halfway point of the 78th Masters with a 3-stroke lead.
It’s far different for Watson from last year, when he tied for 50th here.
“I was still celebrating my green jacket,” he said. “You’ve got to think about where I’ve come from — my mom having two jobs to pay for my golf, my dad working in construction. To think about that and where I am with my young family, you’re thinking about how great this was. It’s an accomplishment for a guy named Bubba. My year, my career, was complete after that win.
“Never been drunk before, but I had a hangover from the green jacket. It was going to take me some time. I do everything my way. I learned the game my way. I figured it out my way. It just takes me a little bit longer with the mental focus and drive to get back to where I am today.
“Learning how to become a family man, learning how to get back to practicing the right way and focusing the right way on the golf course, it’s a lot of hard work to get back to this level.”
Of the 11 rounds in the 60s this week, Watson has two of them, including a 68 on Friday that included five consecutive birdies.
His 36-hole score of 7-under 137 gave him the advantage over Australia’s John Senden, who had a 68 for 140. Defending champion Adam Scott rallied on the back nine for a 72 that tied him with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, Thomas Bjorn, and Jonas Blixt at 141.
Fred Couples, at age 54 playing in his 30th Masters, shared seventh place at 142 with Jim Furyk and Jimmy Walker. Furyk matched the day’s best round with a 68.
Rory McIlroy struggled to a 77 and made the cut of 4-over 148 right on the number. Phil Mickelson wasn’t as fortunate, missing by a stroke after a 73 that included a triple bogey at the par-3 12th.
Watson was at par for his round when he arrived at the par-3 12th hole, where a 9-iron and a successful birdie putt started his roll. As he walked off No. 16, he was 5 under for the day and 8 under for the tournament, and a bogey at 18 didn’t seem to affect him.
“It’s not science here,” he 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. That’s all I’m trying to do — hit the greens and two-putts and maybe throw in a birdie here or there.”
Senden, 42, who made the cut for only the second time in five Masters appearances, was 2 over par for the event through four holes but went 6 under the rest of the way. He moved into second place with a birdie at 15 and then made a nice eight-foot putt to save par at the par-3 16th.
Scott, who was tied for second after the first round, got off to a horrible start Friday with three bogeys in his first five holes. But he recovered on the back nine with birdies at 12, 13, and 15.
“It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for,” he said, “but given everything, I’m absolutely satisfied.”
Spieth, perhaps the most ballyhooed of the 24 Masters rookies at the start of the week, rose into contention by sinking a 15-foot putt for eagle 3 at 15, and neutralized a bogey at the 17th with a short birdie putt at the last hole.