There was nothing outlandish about his birdie spree Friday, just brilliance and power on a demanding day of crispy greens and swirling wind. Watson had missed only eight greens the first two days. He's made only two bogeys in 36 holes.
"Bubba is tearing it up," said Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old from Texas who doesn't look at all like an Augusta rookie, four strokes back after shooting 70. "So we've got to go get him."
There are plenty of players ready to give chase.
John Senden, who qualified for the Masters a month ago with his win at Innisbrook, was three shots behind. 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.
Defending champion 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 at 141, joined by Spieth, Thomas Bjorn (68) and Jonas Blixt (71). There's also 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 4-foot par putt to make the cut at 4-over 148.