Watson birdies his way to 66, 3-stroke lead in U.S. Senior Open

He leads five players after the second round of the U.S. Senior Open.

HAVEN, Wis. (AP) — Tom Watson made four straight birdies on his way to shooting a 6-under-par 66 in the second round of the U.S. Senior Open on Friday, moving to 8 under for the tournament and taking a three-shot lead over five players.

Taking advantage of relatively calm winds at Whistling Straits, Watson made eight birdies on Friday. Accurate approach shots and his famed short game played a key role in his string of four in a row, which came toward the end of his first nine.

Watson’s closest pursuers at 5 under are Loren Roberts, Des Smyth, Lonnie Nielsen, Ben Crenshaw and Vicente Fernandez. First-round leader Eduardo Romero had a rough afternoon capped by a triple-bogey meltdown on the 18th hole, finishing 5 over for the day and 1 under for the tournament.

Teeing off from the back nine, Watson began his birdie binge on the par-4 14th, where he put a chip shot within 12 feet and made the putt.

After an accurate approach shot set up an eight-foot birdie putt on the 15th, Watson pushed a potential 25-foot eagle putt past the hole on the par-5 16th but recovered to make birdie.

Fourth straight birdie

Watson’s eight-iron shot on the par-3 17th landed within 3 feet of the hole, and he rolled in the putt to make his fourth straight birdie.

Watson’s streak was interrupted when he hit his approach shot short of the green on 18. He chipped within 6 feet, but missed the putt to take his first bogey of the round.

With a large gallery in tow, Watson made four more birdies on his second nine. His only other bogey came on the eighth hole, after his drive landed in a bunker. He had to pitch the ball sideways back onto the fairway.

Watson, 57, has won five British Opens, two Masters and a U.S. Open — but he has yet to win a U.S. Senior Open in seven tries.

Close, but no win

He has finished second in three of the past five senior opens, losing a duel with Allen Doyle last year despite playing in front of his home-state fans at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan.

But Doyle won’t be there to do him in again this year. Doyle, trying to become the first player to win three straight senior opens, shot an even-par 72 on Friday — not nearly enough to keep him from missing the cut after an 83 in the first round. Doyle is the first defending senior open champion to miss the cut since Bruce Fleisher in 2002.

A total of 62 players made the cut, which was at 4 over. Two-time senior open champion Hale Irwin missed it by one stroke when he failed to sink a short putt on 18.

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