Long-hitting Bubba Watson of the US eagled the par-five 11th for a second consecutive day on his way to a one-shot lead in the second round of the New Orleans Classic on Friday.
Joint pacesetter overnight with Australia’s Matt Jones, the left-hander fired a four-under 68 in dazzling sunshine and stayed in front of the late starters as the greens firmed up and the wind strengthened in the afternoon.
The 32-year-old Watson, from nearby Bagdad in the Florida panhandle, also recorded three birdies and a lone bogey to take control of the USPGA Tour event with a 10-under total of 134.
Josh Teater of the US, a rookie on the circuit last year, briefly got to 11-under, before double-bogeying the last for a 66 and second place.
John Rollins carded a 69 to lie third at eight-under, a stroke in front of fellow Americans Jason Dufner (69), Webb Simpson (69) and Dean Wilson (64), plus Australians John Senden (67) and Jones (71).
Watson, who clinched his second USPGA Tour victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, was delighted to be heading into the weekend in contention for another title.
“This is what we strive to do,” Watson told reporters. “We always want the pressure. We always want the nerves, the butterflies. We’re trying to win golf tournaments. I’ve gotten lucky enough to win two so far and I’m trying to go for my third. It would be nice to pull it off here in New Orleans ... two-and-a-half hours away from where I grew up. I’ve just putted really well, hit a lot of good tee shots and stayed out of the water as much as possible.”
Asked if his strategy would change for the weekend, Watson replied: “No. If I could play the same the next two days, I have a great shot at winning.”
On Thursday, Watson eagled the 11th after hitting a booming 343-yard drive followed by a soaring six-iron over a cypress tree that landed 32 feet from the pin.
On Friday, he eagled the same hole after belting his tee shot 329 yards down the fairway, striking his second from 244 yards to within 20 feet and coolly knocking in the putt.
“Yeah, that hole was good for me,” he said with a smile. “I hit two good shots. The fairway and tee shot was a little scary for me, but it worked out today.”
British world No. 3 Luke Donald, beaten in a playoff for The Heritage last Sunday, was hot on Watson’s heels with seven holes to play, before losing momentum.
Eight-under overall, Donald bogeyed the third, his 12th hole of the day, and then double-bogeyed the fourth, before carding a 71 to end the round five strokes off the pace.
The cut fell at one-under, with Heritage champion Brandt Snedeker, former world No. 1 David Duval and US Open champion Graeme McDowell among those missing out.