DORAL, Fla. (AP) – Bubba Watson has never been one to get anywhere in a straight line, especially when a golf ball is involved.
The best example of that were two holes late in the second round at the Cadillac Championship, one that helped him keep pace with Justin Rose, another that helped him pass Rose and take the outright lead going into the weekend at Doral.
Watson was so far left off the sixth fairway that a tree was blocking his route to the hole, which was 135 yards with a left-to-right wind. The shot normally calls for a sand wedge, which might have been enough to get over the tree. Watson chose to go around it.
“He took three clubs more,'' caddie Ted Scott said. “He takes it 20 yards right of the green and slices it back into the wind, and it actually went past the hole, then came back with the wind.''
Scott reached for his yardage book, in which he keeps notes of yardage and clubs that Watson hits on every hole in every round. Next to this notation on the sixth hole, he wrote in parentheses, “Wow.''
“The sad thing,'' Watson said, “is I could see that in my head.''
Two holes later, trailing Rose by one shot in the must-see group Friday on the Blue Monster, Watson was 225 yards away in the fairway. He hit a bullet of a 3-iron just over a palm, clipping it ever so slightly, with just enough power into the wind that it cleared the water and settled 6 feet away for eagle.
He went from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot lead.
Watson signed for a 10-under 62, one shot off the course record by Stephen Ames in 2000. That put the powerful, and very creative, southpaw at 12-under 132 going into the third round Saturday on the Blue Monster.
Rose wasn't too bad, either. He had a 64 for the second-best score of the day, and gets to play in the final pairing with Watson. They will have to manage without Mark Wilson, who hit plenty of good shots in his round of 70. It just didn't look that way.
Watson and Rose combined for 17 birdies and one eagle. Their better-ball score would have been 59.
“They did everything right,'' Wilson said. “It was some of the best golf I've seen collectively between them.''
Rose was among those caught up in the Bubba show.
“I don't let it influence my game plan, the way I play the golf course, but definitely you keep one eye on him just out of interest,'' Rose said. “He's a fun guy to watch play golf. When he hits tee shots, there's a bit of disbelief and stuff like that, or he curves one, starts one in the trees and there's `Ooohing' and `Aahhhing' when it goes back into the fairways.
“No one knows what to expect and I think it's fascinating to watch.''
Even on the practice range, no matter what club, Watson rarely hits the ball in a straight line. Golf is all about shapes. That's why he has never been a big fan of the Blue Monster, even after his round of 62 in blustery conditions.
Put him in the desert, with the contrast of brown dirt and green grass; or Muirfield Village, where the fairways gently bend and are framed beautifully by the rough and trees; and Watson can paint a picture in his head of what shot he wants to play.
To him, Doral is a blend of green from tee to green, with the wavy palms and water. He can't figure out where he's going.
“In my mind, I have to be able to see it, because I'm everywhere,'' Watson said. “Today I talked about so many different things with my caddie. He's like, `Are you even focused on golf?' It's one of those things. I have to get really focused on it. When you get out here, the grass and the fairways and greens and rough kind of look the same. Like in Atlanta, East Lake, same thing I've said there at the Tour Championship. I just can't see it. It's hard for me to picture shots because everything looks the same.''
Friday was only the 10th round Watson had played at Doral. His best score had been a 68, and his 62 in the second round was only the third time he had broken 70.
“I still don't like this golf course,'' he said with a laugh.
Despite the steady wind, there were plenty of low scores on the Blue Monster. The average score was 69.9, close to three strokes easier than the opening round. There were 12 scores in the 60s on Thursday, and 31 of them Friday.
Tiger Woods played bogey-free for a 67 and actually lost ground. He moved up the leaderboard, but is seven shots behind going into the weekend, with 14 players ahead of him.
“This is the highest score I could have shot today, for sure,'' Woods said.
Rory McIlroy, in his first tournament as the new world No. 1, managed a 69 and fell 10 shots off the lead.
Even with the tees moved slightly forward and slightly less wind, the par-4 18th still played difficult. There were five birdies, compared with only two birdies in the opening round.
Adam Scott had one of them, holing a 20-foot putt for a birdie-birdie finish that allowed him to recover from a double bogey on the eighth hole. He shot a 68 and was at 10-under 134, two shots out of the lead.
“Right where I want to be,'' Scott said. “The guys shot some unbelievably good scores out there today, so I knew on that back nine as I was kind of falling a long way behind, I needed to step it up, and I was happy the putter really came through for me. Tomorrow, I'm just going to have to be really sharp, because there's no doubt again there are going to be low scores out there.''
Peter Hanson, who reached the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship, took another step toward trying to secure a PGA Tour card. He had a 65 and was alone in fourth in this World Golf Championship.
Thomas Bjorn has yet to make a bogey in 36 holes and had another 68. He was four shots behind, tied with PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who had a 67. The group at 7-under 137 included Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and former PGA champion Martin Kaymer.
“You'll take that any week,'' Bjorn said. “I'm not making a big number of birdies, obviously, but when you can keep big mistakes off your scorecard, that's the key to this golf course. It's very easy to make some big mistakes and it's difficult to get it back.''