To some, it seemed like 1977, when Tom Watson outdueled Jack Nicklaus down the stretch at the Masters and again later that year at the British Open.

And to others, it had the appearance of 1982, when Watson bested Nicklaus again at the U.S. Open.But it was 1991, and that is what makes it so amazing.

Tom Watson, all but written off at the relatively youthful golfing age of 41, displayed the kind of talent he had seemingly lost by shooting his second straight 68 Friday to take a two-shot lead at the Masters.

And Nicklaus was still hanging around, stunningly so considering the disaster that befell him Friday at the famed 12th hole of the Augusta National Golf Club.

Nicklaus, at 51 trying to become the first senior player to win a major title, has four shots to make up and nine golfers to pass. But he has 36 drama-packed holes in which to do it.

"Let's try and do this again Sunday," Watson said to Nicklaus as they walked off the 18th green Friday, having been part of yet another whirlwind day at an event that seems to top itself for dramatics each year.

"It was something special for Tom Watson to play with Jack Nicklaus in the Masters," Watson said after he and his old friend finished play. "I don't think it feels any different than it has before. I just hope to play the best golf I'm capable of playing the next two days."

Watson, who has won only one tournament during the past seven years and whose round Friday was highlighted by an eagle putt at the par-5 15th, was at 8-under 136 and Nicklaus was at 140 after a round of 72.

In between Nicklaus and Watson was a group of international stars, any of whom could deny the history that the two long-time protagonists are trying to write.

Two shots behind Watson at 6-under 138 were Welshman Ian Woosnam, 1989 British Open champ Mark Calcavecchia and two of the first round's three co-leaders - Mark McCumber and Lanny Wadkins.

It was McCumber who best summed up the day of horrible mistakes and heroic rallies that made the second round such a memorable one.

"It was a special day at the Masters," said McCumber, who shot a relatively tame 71. "There were train wrecks and Apollo launches. I'm sure emotions went all over the place today."

Wadkins was guilty of one of the day's biggest mistakes when he casually backhanded a three-inch putt at the ninth hole and missed it.

Another shot back at 5-under 139 were Billy Ray Brown, who posted the day's low score of 65; Raymond Floyd, loser of last year's Masters to Nick Faldo in sudden death; Bernhard Langer, the 1985 winner here who had an eight on his card Thursday; and Jose-Maria Olazabal, who rebounded from a quadruple bogey on the front nine Friday.

Then, at 140, came Nicklaus, who except for a single swing at the 12th hole would have been tied for the lead. The 51-year-old Nicklaus was at 4-under as he stood on the 12th tee and at the time was two shots out of the lead.

But he put two shots in the water there and eventually took a quadruple bogey seven. Four holes later he had made up all four shots, a stretch of sensational golf climaxed by an immense birdie putt at the par-3 16th. Watson followed Nicklaus's birdie at that hole with a long one of his own to move to 8-under.

"That sort of thing just kills you," Nicklaus said. "It ruins your tournament. But I was fortunate to come back with some good birdies."

Left staggering under the barrage of exciting play was Faldo, trying to become the first player in the tournament's history to win three years in a row.

He shot a 1-over 73 Friday for a 1-over 145 total and dejectedly said his game wasn't up to form.

"What will it take to win?" Faldo said. "It will take a lot lower than I've been shooting."

Any number of players still had a chance even though they were slightly removed from the lead. Leading money winner Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington and Ian Baker-Finch were at 3-under 141 while the group at 142 amateur Phil Mickelson and former Masters champ Craig Stadler, who chipped in at the final hole for an even-par 72.

Greg Norman was not so fortunate. His 3-under 69 Friday gave him a two-day score of 3-over 147 and he missed the cut at the Masters for the second straight year.

"I feel like I've been hit by something and I don't know what it is, " Norman said. "I can't get fired up these days."