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Young Master: Jordan Spieth leads wire-to-wire at Augusta

By Doug Ferguson

AP Golf Writer

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jordan Spieth got more than redemption and a green jacket Sunday. He took his place among the best in the game with a Masters victory for the ages.

One year after Spieth lost a bid to become the youngest Masters champion, the 21-year-old Texan turned in one of the most dominant wins ever at Augusta National. He never let anyone get closer to him than three shots after his record start. He never gave anyone much hope on Sunday.

Spieth closed with a 2-under 70, missing a 5-foot par putt on the final hole that would have set yet another record. Instead, he tied the score set by Tiger Woods in 1997 at 18-under 270.

“This was the ultimate goal in my golf life,” Spieth said.

For all the talk about the Grand Slam bid by Rory McIlroy and the return of Woods, this week was about the arrival of another star.

“It’s awfully impressive,” McIlroy said after finishing fourth. “It’s nice to get your major tally up and running at an early stage in your career. It’s great to see, great for the game, and I’m sure there will be many more.”

Spieth became the first wire-to-wire winner at the Masters since Raymond Floyd in 1976, and this might have been even more special. Craig Woods in 1941 is the only other Masters champion who led by at least three shots from the opening round to the trophy presentation.

Phil Mickelson tried to make a run. So did Justin Rose. Neither got closer than three shots at any point, and it wasn’t long before Spieth was making another birdie putt to take the drama out of the back nine.

Mickelson (69) and Rose (70) tied for second. It was the 10th time Mickelson has been runner-up in a major. Woods jarred his right wrist then he struck wood under the pine straw on the ninth hole. He recovered and closed with a 73, 13 shots behind.

Spieth won for the third time on the PGA Tour and fifth time worldwide. He will rise to No. 2 in the world rankings, still a ways to go to catch McIlroy at the top. When McIlroy won back-to-back majors last year to establish himself as the game’s best player, the quest was to find a rival.

Spieth provided the answer on perhaps the biggest stage in the sport with his record-setting week at Augusta.

“I thought today might be easier having played with the lead on Saturday. It wasn’t,” Spieth said. “It’s the most incredible week of my life. This is as great as it gets in our sport. … I’m still kind of shock a little bit.”

And he will keep the editors of the Masters record book busy. Among the marks he established this week:

— The 36-hole record at 14-under 130.

— The 54-hole record at 16-under 200.

— The most birdies for the tournament at 28.

— The lowest opening round by a champion at 64.

— The youngest player to lead after the opening round.

“He has no weaknesses,” Mickelson said. “He doesn’t overpower the golf course, but he plays the course strategically well. He plays all the shots properly. And he has that ability to focus and see things clear when the pressure is on and perform at his best when the pressure is on.

“That’s something that you really can’t teach,” he said. “Some players are able to do it, some players aren’t. And he is.”

Spieth showed early he was up to challenge. Rose, starting the final round four shots behind, rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the first hole, and Spieth calmly made his birdie putt from just inside him. Spieth went out in 35 to build his lead to five shots, and one putt later, the Masters effectively was over.

Spieth rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 10 for a six-shot lead. It was his 26th birdie of the Masters, breaking the tournament record that Mickelson set in 2001. Spieth managed this in only 64 holes. The next target was the 72-hole scoring record that Woods set in 1997 and he almost got there except for that bogey at the end.

He twice went for the green on par 5s on the back nine, barely clearing the creek at No. 13 and going just over the back on No. 15, both times making birdie. The birdie on the 15th made him the only player in Masters history to reach 19-under par.

McIlroy had a 68-66 weekend, hurt by his slow start and put him 12 shots going into the weekend. He will have to wait until next year to try to win the Masters and become the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam.

The way Spieth is playing, that task just got a little harder. In his last four starts, Spieth has won twice and finished second twice.

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