AUGUSTA, Georgia, (Reuters) – The 78th Masters was poised for another thrilling finish as 2012 champion Bubba Watson outdueled playing partner Jordan Spieth over the front nine to seize a two-shot lead at Augusta National yesterday.
Left-hander Watson mixed four birdies with a lone bogey to reach the turn in three-under 33, moving to eight under overall in pursuit of his second major title.
Spieth, at 20 aiming to become the youngest player to win the Masters, had briefly moved three strokes clear but he faltered with bogeys at the eighth and ninth on a lightning-fast layout to slide back to six under.
Swede Jonas Blixt was alone in third at four under after 10 holes, with Dane Thomas Bjorn, after 13 holes, and American Matt Kuchar, after 10, a further stroke back in a tie for fourth.
Spieth had been the dominant figure in the early going with some rivetting golf, four birdies and a bogey in the first seven holes putting him two ahead of the chasing pack.
He picked up his first shot of the day at the par-five second, sinking a left-to-right breaking putt from 10 feet, then spectacularly holed out from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-three fourth, raising both arms in celebration.
Though he bogeyed the fifth after hitting his approach into a greenside bunker, he recovered with birdies at the par-three sixth, hitting his tee shot to three feet, and at the seventh, where he coaxed in a slick 12-footer downhill.