Spieth is Masterful at Augusta

Jordan Spieth, playing with savvy well beyond his years, on Sunday became the second 21-year-old to claim the Green Jacket in the 79th Masters.

Spieth closed with a 2-under-par 70 to win his first major championship by four strokes over three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose of England at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

“This was the most incredible week of my life,” Spieth in a CBS-TV interview in Butler Cabin, where he accepted the Green Jacket from defending champion Bubba Watson. “This is as good as it gets in our sport. I’ve been dreaming of this all my life. It still hasn’t sunk in, but I’m sure it will later.”

“I thought today would be easier than yesterday, playing with the lead, but it wasn’t. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I had two major champions right behind me and I couldn’t let up. I saw that (birdie) putt go in on the first hole and just went from there.”

It was virtually a wire-to-wire victory, as Spieth became the fifth player to lead after all four rounds of the Masters and the first since Raymond Floyd in 1976. He became the first player to reach 19-under in the first major of the year and set another record with 28 birdies for the tournament.

Spieth, who would be a senior at the University of Texas had he stayed in school, made a bogey on the final hole to settle for a final score of 270, tying the Masters record set by Tiger Woods, the other 21-year-old to win at Augusta, in 1997.

Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, played alongside Spieth and put pressure on him with three straight birdies through the 15th hole, while also finishing with a 70.

Perhaps the key point of the final round came on the 16th hole, where Rose could have gotten to within two strokes with a two-shot swing, but Rose missed a seven-foot birdie putt and Spieth made a clutch par save from five feet.

“I thought if I could make my putt and if he missed his I’d get back within two with two to play,” said Rose, who finished in the top-10 in a major for the ninth time, but the first since his victory two years ago. “Mine just slipped by and his buried in the middle.

“I had a great start, birdie-birdie and was in the tournament all the way. Usually, 14-under gets it done (in the Masters). (Jordan’s) phenomenal. What a month he’s had, (first or second) in his last four tournaments. He’s comfortable with the lead.”

Mickelson made a run with a closing 69 that included a five-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole, but could manage only pars on the last three holes and finished second for the 10th time in the Grand Slam events to go with his five major titles. Mickelson has now finished second at all four majors.

Lefty also posted his first top 10 finish since he was second behind Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in the PGA Championship last August at Valhalla.

“I played a good, solid round, but I needed an exceptional one,” said Mickelson, who will make his second bid for the Career Grand Slam in the U.S. Open in June at Chambers Bay near Seattle. “I played good golf, but I just got outplayed.”

“Jordan is a tremendous player, but he’s a great individual too. It’s hard not to pull for him. I thought that with 14-under I might have won, but he played amazing golf.”

McIlroy, who could have completed the Career Grand Slam with a victory in the Masters, recovered from a slow start to his week and closed with a 66 that equaled the best round of the day and was six strokes behind in solo fourth.

“Obviously, I’m very happy with how the weekend went even the last nine holes on Friday, which I needed just to get to the weekend,” McIlroy said. “If someone would have told I would have finished 12-under at the start of the week I would have taken it, but Jordan played fantastically and just kept his foot down.”

Hideki Matsuyama, 23, of Japan, also carded a 66 and was another shot behind in fifth, his third top-10 finish in the majors in the last three years.

Woods, who has won the Masters four times, closed with a 73 and slipped to a tie for 17th in his first event since his latest back injury in February. The top-20 performance, however, showed that Woods might be able to regain the form that has taken him to 14 major championships.

“I needed to go low (on the front nine), like 31 or something, but I missed shorties on 2, 3 and 4; I wish I could have made a few more putts,” said Woods, who appeared to injure his right hand and/or wrist when his clubhead hit a root under the pine straw on a shot at the ninth hole.

“The bone popped out of the joint and I just put it back in.”

Woods made his first appearance on the PGA Tour since he withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in February.

“Considering where I was to make the complete swing change and rectify all the flaws and come to a major championship and contend, I’m proud of that part of it,” Woods said.

Defending champion Bubba Watson, who was trying to win the Masters for the third time in four years, shot 74 and wound up in a tie for 38th.

Englishmen Paul Casey (68) and Ian Poulter (67), and Dustin Johnson (69) tied for sixth, nine strokes behind.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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