Bubba Watson and Justin Rose put on an amazing show of birdies in blustery conditions at Doral, making 17 between them while playing in the same group Friday at the Cadillac Championship in Doral, Fla.
Their playful feud was decided by Watson’s eagle, giving him a 10-under 62 and a one-shot lead in the World Golf Championship event.
Watson belted a 3-iron that barely got over a palm tree, carried over the water into the wind, and settled 6 feet away on the par-5 eighth (his 17th hole) for an eagle putt that gave him a one-shot lead over Rose.
Mark Wilson, the third in that group, shot a respectable 70 and was just along for the ride.
“They did everything right,’’ Wilson said. “It was some of the best golf I’ve seen collectively between them.’’
Watson was at 12-under 132 and will get to play again in the final group Saturday with Rose, who had to settle for a 64.
“Maybe they’ve been cutting the hole a little bigger,’’ Rose said.
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 Thursday, and 31 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.
Rory McIlroy, in his first tournament as the world No. 1, managed a 69 and fell 10 shots off the lead.
Perhaps most peculiar about Watson being atop the leaderboard at Doral is that he really doesn’t like the course. Without many trees except for the waving palms, he can’t figure out where he’s supposed to be hitting the ball. But he kept hitting it long, had short irons into the greens, and made his share of putts. That works just about anywhere.
As always, there were a few shots that only Watson can see.
He was so far left of the sixth fairway a tree was blocking his path to the green. Watson had only 135 yards to the hole, but instead of playing a sand wedge, he hit 9-iron and aimed it some 20 yards right of the green, slicing it back into the left-to-right wind beyond the hole until the wind pushed it back on the descent. It landed 6 feet from the cup.
Watson was in the fairway on the par-5 eighth, but the best path to the green was around a palm tree near the ropes where the photographers were camped out.
“I took it right up the edge of that tree. There’s a little tree there and it actually nicked that limb a little bit,’’ Watson said. “I hit it as hard as I could, just a low, what everybody calls a stinger. Hit as hard as I could low and knew it wasn’t going to slice. So all I was protecting was the draw and it went dead straight and came off perfect. And the rest is history.’’
He went from one shot behind to one shot ahead of Rose, who had nothing to apologize about his 64. Rose, who contended last week in the wind at the Honda Classic, ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, the exception coming on the 18th.
Adam Scott holed a 20-foot putt on 18 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.
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.
PGA champion Keegan Bradley (67) is four shots behind, tied with Thomas Bjorn (68). The group at 7-under includes Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer.
Phil Mickelson was 1 under after a 71.
PGA - Matt Jones shot a 5-under 67 in windy conditions to open a three-stroke lead over George McNeill (70) after two rounds of the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande.
Jones, tied with McNeill for the first-round lead, had a bogey-free round to reach 11-under 133 on the Trump International course.