'I had the Watson of old kind of feel today,' the 56-year-old joked Friday after shooting a 4-under 66 to take the midway lead at the U.S. Senior Open.
'I hit it sideways a little bit here and there and hit some really good shots and hit some bad shots and let the putter do the work. So it was a good fun day out there today.'
The 39-time PGA TOUR champion and eight-time Champions Tour winner did it with his putter on Friday, needing just 26 strokes of the flat stick to get around the course. He one-putted 11 times.
'I didn't hit the ball quite as well today as I did yesterday, but I certainly putted quite a bit better,' said Watson, who opened with an even-par 70 on Thursday. 'And that was the key to my round today.'
Of course, it helps to be playing in front of a home crowd.
'Well, this certainly is a homer crowd right here,' said Watson, a Kansas City native and honorary club member. 'I saw quite a few people here I hadn't seen for a while, and they all came to Prairie Dunes to see me play. It's fun to play in front of your home crowd.'
Watson is seeking his fifth major championship on the Champions Tour and first since claiming his second Senior British Open last year. He mixed six birdies with two bogeys on Friday, and has followed up each of his last three bogeys with a birdie on the next hole.
'It's nice to have that category now called bounce-back. It's like getting slugged in a boxing match -- you know, you counter. And I've always had that ability to do that,' Watson said.
Watson was one of only nine players to finish two rounds at even-par or better.
Defending champion Allen Doyle shot a 2-under 68 and leads a group of four players who are tied for second place at 3-under-par 137. When he won last year, Doyle came back from nine shots down on Sunday.
'I can only think of one year I didn't play pretty good in one of these,' Doyle said. 'But [this year] certainly wouldn't have been as nice if I shot 75-75 and was ordering the plane early. That wouldn't have sat quite as well.'
Mark James joined Doyle as the only two players to finish in red numbers on both days. He shot a 1-under 69 and shares second place with Doyle, Morris Hatalsky (67) and Bob Gilder (66).
Elsewhere, first-round leaders Jay Haas and Dave Barr both took steps back on Friday.
Haas, a three-time winner this year, shot a 5-over 75 and is tied for 11th place at plus-two. Barr stumbled to a 76 and into a tie for 15th place at plus-3.
The cut line fell at 7 over par with 61 players moving on to the weekend.
Only one amateur survived: Randy Reifers shot a 73 and is tied for 28th place at plus-4 with eight other players, including Fred Funk, who is making his Champions Tour debut.