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MASTERS: Spieth denied history at Augusta

Jordan Spieth reacts after two-putting on the 13th green and settling for par on a hole that Bubba Watson birdied to extend his lead to three shots. (Reuters)

Jordan Spieth reacts after two-putting on the 13th green and settling for par on a hole that Bubba Watson birdied to extend his lead to three shots. (Reuters)

AUGUSTA — Jordan Spieth stared down history on a course full of it.

The 20-year-old took charge early in Sunday’s final round at Augusta National in his pursuit to become the youngest Masters champion, pulling away from the field and closing in on a green jacket.

The lead, the jacket, the history — it was all in Spieth’s hands.

But then in an instant, it all began to fade away.

In the span of two holes midway through his round, Spieth’s two-shot lead on the field turned into a two-shot deficit behind eventual champion Bubba Watson — and the wonderkid never saw the top of the leaderboard again.

It was the turning point in Sunday’s round, a moment that ripped the green jacket off Spieth’s back and denied Augusta National its youngest winner since a 21-year-old Tiger Woods in 1997.

Spieth, who entered the final round tied for the lead with Watson at 5-under, finished in a tie for second with fellow first-time Masters competitor Jonas Blixt after shooting an even-par 72.

“I’ve worked my whole life to lead Augusta on Sunday, and although I feel like it’s very early in my career, and I’ll have more chances, it’s a stinger,” he said. “And I had it in my hands, and I could have gone forward with it and just didn’t quite make the putts. And that’s what it came down to.”

After birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, Spieth stepped on the eighth tee with a two-shot lead on Watson, but two Spieth bogeys and two Watson birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 flipped the leaderboard.

Still, Spieth had hope.

“When I got to 10 tee box, I still believed that I could win the tournament, no doubt about it,” Spieth said. “I still thought that Bubba — with the way the golf course was playing, after No. 10, as well, thought that I may be able to really kick into the lead.”

Spieth briefly pulled to within a shot of Watson when the left-handed former Georgia star bogeyed No. 10, but Spieth fell three shots behind after the 13th and never got closer.

It was still a life-changing tournament for Spieth, who was anything but a household name when he arrived at Augusta National, where he sent a message to the golfing world with four straight solid rounds on a course that played tougher than it has in years: Golf’s newest star has arrived.

Watson, who admitted after Saturday’s round that if he didn’t win his second green jacket that he hoped Spieth would be the one slipping it on, embraced the youngster after the round.

“That’s one of those things, and just like I told him when I shook his hand, gave him a hug, I said he’s a great talent and you’re going to have a lot more opportunities; you’re only 20,” Watson said.

Spieth doesn’t want to wait long.

“I feel like I’m ready to win,” Spieth said. “It’s just a matter of time and maybe a little bit of course knowledge.

“I’ve accomplished one of my goals this year, which is to get in contention in a major and see how I can do. You know, hopefully going forward, I can do that again. There’s still three more this year.”

KUCHAR SHORT AGAIN

Former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar found himself in contention on Sunday at Augusta National for the third straight year — but once again he couldn’t find the shots to make a move.

Kuchar, who finished tied for third in 2012 and tied for eighth last year, shot a 2-over 74 on Sunday and fell into a tie for fifth place with Rickie Fowler.

After a chip-in on No. 3 to climb to 6-under, Kuchar briefly tied Spieth for the Masters lead, but a double bogey on No. 4 knocked Kuchar back to 4-under, and he never got closer than two shots to the lead the rest of the tournament.

“It’s an exciting place to be. But it’s a tough one,” Kuchar said. “I don’t know how many opportunities you get at winning the Masters tournament.

“I don’t know how many more I’ll get. It’s one of those things you get in the situation and you hope to take advantage, but it’s a lot better in this position than playing early on Sunday, that’s for sure.”