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Watson leads by 3 at Augusta

Augusta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - A stellar run of golf on the second nine Friday gave Bubba Watson a 3-stroke lead after two rounds of the 78th Masters.

Watson, the 2012 champion, had five birdies in a row on the second nine, but bogeyed the 17th en route to a 4-under 68 in round two. He ended 36 holes at 7-under-par 137.

John Senden matched Watson's 68 to climb into second place at minus-4. The Australian made the cut for the second straight year at the Masters.

Thomas Bjorn also shot 4-under 68 in round two to gain a share of third place at 3-under 141. He was joined there by Jonas Blixt (71), Jordan Spieth (70) and defending champion Adam Scott (72).

Fred Couples posted 71 for the second day in a row to end two rounds 2-under 142. He was joined in seventh place by Jimmy Walker (72) and Jim Furyk, who had the fourth and final 68 of the day.

Jamie Donaldson and Russell Henley both shot 2-under 70 to gain a piece of 10th place at minus-1. They were joined there by Stephen Gallacher (72), Kevin Stadler (73) and Kevin Streelman (71).

Rory McIlroy made a 4-foot par putt on the 18th to make the cut on the number at 4-over-par 148. McIlroy struggled to a 5-over 77 in round two.

McIlroy made bogey on the 13th, but it could have been worse as his second shot to the par-5 hit a sprinkler head and caromed into the bushes behind the green. He blasted out to the edge of the green, but took three more shots to get down from there and the bogey dropped him to plus-4. He parred the last four holes to end there.

The cut line fell at plus-4 with 51 players making it to the weekend. Among those that missed the cut were former major champions Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Keegan Bradley, as well as Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson.

This is the first time since 1994 that both Mickelson and Tiger Woods will not be around for the weekend. That year both players missed the tournament. Mickelson had made 19 consecutive cuts at the Masters prior to this week.

"The wind is what made it tricky. It was a real fun challenge, there were some birdie pins out there. If you played well, you could really make some birdies," said Mickelson.

Watson, who won the Northern Trust earlier this year, started round two with six straight pars. He birdied the par-4 seventh, but gave that shot back on the ninth. He failed to get up and down for par from over the green.

The 35-year-old made the turn at 3-under, and remained there as he parred the first two holes of the second nine. He flew into the lead from there.

Watson stuffed his tee shot inside four feet at the 12th and converted that for birdie. He 2-putted for birdie on the par-5 13th to take the lead at minus-5.

He was the first to reach 5-under par for the tournament. At the 14th, Watson poured on a long, right-to-left breaking putt to make it three in a row.

Watson chipped to six feet at the 15th and rolled that in. His final birdie in the run came at 16, where his tee shot stopped inside four feet and he made that to get to 8-under. He parred the 17th, but dropped a shot at the last.

"I made a solid par on 11, hit a great iron shot into 12 and made a birdie somehow there. Thirteen is gettable with the wind, I got lucky on 14 again because I saw Sergio's chip, so I got to follow that, and then a great iron shot at 16," Watson explained.

Watson missed the 18th green left with his approach. He chipped inside five feet, but pulled the putt to the right. He tapped in for a closing bogey.

"When you're defending champion, I didn't focus as much as I needed to. I was just kind of here," Watson admitted. "Now, going out practicing my own way, doing my things and not having much media to do, it's pretty easy."

Senden had one of the best in-round comebacks of the week. He stumbled to bogeys on the first and fourth to tumble to 2-over par for the championship.

The reigning Valspar Championship winner battled back with three birdies in a 4-hole span from the fifth. That got him to minus-1.

Senden birdied the 11th, then collected back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 to move within three of Watson's lead.

"It felt more like a 64 out there the way the course was playing. It was a windy day. It was a tough day, especially with the way I started a couple bogeys early," Senden said. "I managed to get a couple birdies on five, seven and eight, and that settled me down. I played well around the back nine."

NOTES: Watson has converted just one of eight 36-hole leads into victory on the PGA Tour, however the other two times he opened with back-to-back rounds under par in a major, he won the 2012 Masters and was a playoff loser at the 2010 PGA Championship ... Oliver Goss, the 2013 U.S. Amateur runner-up, was the lone amateur to make the cut. Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2013 U.S. Amateur winner, needed to birdie the last to make the cut, but his birdie putt slid by the left edge. He missed the cut by one ... Five strokes was the biggest 36- hole lead in Masters history ... Senden's best finish in a major was a tie for fourth at the 2007 PGA Championship.

04/11 20:29:36 ET

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