Bubba Watson shot a second-round 68 to move to the top of the leaderboard heading into the third round of the 2014 Masters at Augusta National

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Bubba Watson shot a second-round 68 to move to the top of the leaderboard heading into the third round of the 2014 Masters at Augusta National.

The 2012 Masters champion, who opened with a 69 in tough conditions on Thursday, made five consecutive birdies from the 12th before giving one back at the last to complete two rounds in seven-under-par.

He sits three clear of Australian veteran John Senden, who birdied six of his last 14 holes to record a second-round 68.

A shot further back are Thomas Bjorn (68), fellow Scandinvian Jonas Blixt – competing in just his second major – Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old American sensation who continues to play hugely impressive golf on the world stage.

Fifty four-year-old Fred Couples, meanwhile, continues to defy his age. He’s just five shots back with two rounds to play.

Analysis

Conditions and course set-up, for the most part, were a mirror of Thursday, with pins tucked in tricky positions and wind picking up and the day progressed.

But that didn’t bother Bubba Watson, who made serene progress through the field, sparked by a sublime run of birdies from the 12th.

His rhetoric in post-round interviews focused on taking one shot at a time and hitting greens in regulation, and despite his three-shot lead, he’ll need to stay committed to that gameplan to keep himself atop the leaderboard.

It remains to be seen how he’ll cope with the 36-hole lead, but you have to think past experiences will stand him in good stead.

That said, he’s only converted one previous 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour, despite being in that position a total of eight times.

One thing is for sure, a hungry chasing pack – spearheaded by defending champion Adam Scott – lies in wait should the enigmatic American falter out of the blocks.

And if he does struggle early – which is entirely possible, if slightly unexpected – it will bring a number of players into the tournament.

Watson aside, there are 50 players covered by just eight shots. If the pins are slighty more accessible today, as I’m fully expecting them to be, there could be a 65 or a 66 in the offing for the early starters.

It might seem like a sizeable lead for Watson, but three shots simply cannot be deemed healthy in any tournament, especially given the stringent pressure that comes with leading a major heading into the weekend.

Major disappointment

At the other end of the spectrum, some of golf’s biggest names failed to qualify for the weekend. Despite experience frequently being touted as the most important attrubute at Augusta, three-time champion Phil Mickelson, 2011 victor Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Graham McDowell, Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson all failed to make it to the weekend.