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Bubba Watson keeps his emotions in check to lead Masters

Bubba Watson reacts after putting on the 18th

Bubba Watson reacts after putting on the 18th green during the second round of the 78th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Jim Watson

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Bubba Watson has two kinds of secret, one that he makes public and one that he keeps inside and draws upon. Either way, it is no secret that he is much more prepared to handle the Masters than he was as defending champion last year.

He said on Thursday that he didn't want to reveal his "secret" for having such a good first round, then he blurted it out anyway: He is simply trying to hit the ball straight and hit greens in regulation.

The new focus paid off again Friday as he made five consecutive birdies on the back nine, shot 4-under-par 68 and finished the second round of the Masters at 7 under. He leads, three strokes up on John Senden.

"It's not science here," said the man who acknowledged that he let both the demands and satisfactions get to him after he won the 2012 Masters with a wild shot out of the woods in a playoff. He finished 50th here last year and didn't do much better anywhere else.

He spoke yesterday of now "trying to stay level, not too energized, not too excited," regardless of roars that five birdies bring.

"You know when I made the putt on 14," he said of the 50- footer with 15 feet of break, "I gave a wave to the crowd and everything, but no big deal. Let's just go to the next hole and focus on the next shot."

That discipline helped him flourish on a windy day that saw many other golfers go backward. First-round leader Bill Haas shot 78. Defending champion Adam Scott gave up three strokes to par early, then got them back for a 72. Phil Mickelson missed the cut with 76-73.

For Watson, though, the real secret is one layer deeper than his on-course focus.

"A secret? Really?" Watson's wife Angie said outside the clubhouse when she was asked about his cryptic strategy comment. "I think it's just 'enjoying.' He's just comfortable. He has used the word a lot: Rejoicing. He's just enjoying golf again and having fun.

"If he shoots 80 or 8 under, he's still going to go home and play T-ball with Caleb in the backyard," she said, referring to the son they adopted as an infant right before his emotion-drenched win in Augusta. "None of that changes when he gets away from the golf course, so I think that's helping a lot."

Watson, who never has taken a formal golf lesson, now feels free to let his considerable athletic gifts take over. He shook off a bogey 5 on No. 9 (he had let himself get distracted by a photographer before his second shot). Watson hit a solid 9-iron 150 yards into the wind on the par-3 12th to start his birdie string. He nearly aced a 178-yard 9-iron on the par-3 16th.

Despite the missed four-footer for par on No. 18, he is back in balance, after having let the green jacket disorient him last year. "I could enjoy the champions dinner this time. I was in awe when it was my dinner," he said.

"You've got to think about where I've come from, my mom having two jobs to pay for my golf, my dad working in construction," he said. Of the Masters triumph, he said, "It's an accomplishment for a guy named Bubba. My year, my career was complete after that win."

As he kept speaking during his news conference Friday, he couldn't help but elaborate on this other secret, too.

"I've said this whole year is about rejoicing and thinking about, as a kid, you'd be so excited to play on the PGA Tour for nine years. As a kid, you don't think about the bad days. You always think about the great days," the 35-year-old kid said after a great day.

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