Watson shot a 6-under-par 66 in the second round of the U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits on Friday, moving to 8 under for the tournament and taking a three-stroke lead over five players.
Watson made eight birdies Friday, including a string of four straight just before he turned nine holes. But after his round, he said he still doesn't have much a feel for the course, making him think twice about the way he is swinging.
'They've put a couple of tees in different places today, so you go, 'Wait a minute, where do you hit it here?'' Watson said. 'And it makes me a little bit unsure of my swing.'
Watson certainly hid those insecurities well -- especially during the birdie binge that began on the par-4 14th.
'I made some awkward swings out there, to hit some awkward shots, and got away with them for the most part,' Watson said.
Watson's closest pursuers at 5 under are Loren Roberts, Des Smyth, Lonnie Nielsen, Ben Crenshaw and Vicente Fernandez.
'Obviously, he still hits it as good as he ever did,' Roberts said. 'For him, it's a matter of making putts and obviously he made some putts. He's going to be tough to catch.'
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 previous tries.
Watson 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.
'It would be nice to not finish second again and come back with that beautiful trophy, it sure would,' Watson said. 'I have had my opportunities here.'
And now he has another shot at it, thanks in large part to tranquil wind conditions in the morning.
'You had to get some birdies with the wind laying down as it did,' Watson said. 'I made that run on the backside with four in a row, and that obviously was what I needed.'
Watson is well-known for his ability to play in the wind, but that's a skill that hasn't really been needed the past two days at Whistling Straits.
The course's signature high winds whipped up during practice rounds early in the week but have been mostly absent during the first two rounds, leading to unexpectedly low scores.
But that didn't help first-round leader Eduardo Romero, who had a rough afternoon capped by a triple-bogey meltdown on the 18th hole.
Romero's tee shot landed in a bunker, from which he pitched across the fairway and into another bunker. His next shot landed in a creek short of the green, and he needed help from fans in a nearby grandstand to find his ball.
'It's no good for a finish, but there's two more days to go,' said Romero, who noted that his back was bothering him during the round.
He finished 5 over for the day and is 1 under for the tournament.
Meanwhile, a pair of big names won't be around for the weekend.
Doyle was trying to become the first player to win three straight senior opens; instead, he became the first defending senior open champion to miss the cut since Bruce Fleisher in 2002. Doyle shot an even-par 72, but he missed the cut after shooting 83 in the first round.
'We had high hopes, and we go home a little disappointed, but that's the way it is,' Doyle said. 'We went home the last two years probably sky-high.'
Two-time senior open champion Hale Irwin missed the cut by one stroke when he failed to sink a short putt on 18. It was the first time Irwin sat out the weekend in a Champions Tour major, a streak of 24 straight.
A frustrated Irwin said he would take the next three weeks off.
'I'm fed up with it,' Irwin said. 'I've got to get my mind straight, my game straight. Nothing's straight right now. Very disappointing.'