By Paul Newberry
AUGUSTA, Ga.: As the errant shots began to pile up, Jordan Spieth swung his club angrily and spewed out his frustration for everyone to hear.
“Dang it, Jordan!” he muttered while strolling down a fairway at Augusta National.
Finally, after three brilliant days, the kid showed his age.
A major championship will have to wait.
“It stings right now,” Spieth conceded, showing the impatience of youth.
The Texan is only 20, surely with a long career ahead of him. He was looking to become the youngest major winner since the Depression and seemed to have a green jacket in his grasp when he walked off the seventh green with a 2-shot lead, having made one birdie by holing out from a bunker, another with one of those testy downhill putts that are so often the mark of a Masters champion.
But the golfer who won’t be old enough to drink alcohol for another three months couldn’t keep it going Sunday, playing the last 11 holes at 3 over par. Bubba Watson, his playing partner in the final group, pulled away for a 3-stroke victory over Spieth and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt.
“I feel like I’m ready to win,” Spieth said. “Maybe I need just a little bit of course knowledge.”
He was playing the Masters for the first time, and experience is certainly golden around this place.
Spieth discovered that at No. 8, where he thought he struck a perfect little wedge from right off the green — and watched in disbelief as it stopped 25 feet from the cup, leading to a three-putt bogey that changed the momentum of the day.
It was more of the same at No. 9, where Spieth’s approach came up just short and rolled back off the front of the green, resulting in another bogey before he made the turn.
Watson birdied both holes, by the way. Just like that, Spieth’s 2-shot lead was a 2-shot deficit.
“I was 3 under through the first seven,” Spieth said, shaking his head as he remembered the giddiness he felt just a couple of hours earlier. “If you had told me that when I woke up this morning, I would have thought it would be difficult for me not to win this golf tournament.”
Spieth trailed the rest of the way, pretty much finished off by his tee shot at No. 12 that trickled into Rae’s Creek and Watson’s booming drive at the 13th that sliced around the trees, perilously close to calamity, and came to a rest 360 yards away, setting up an easy two-putt birdie while Spieth was making a par he couldn’t afford.
“I’m very, very pleased with the way I played,” said Spieth, who shot an even-par 72 that was his worst score of the week. “But the only thing I’m thinking about is getting back here next year. That is what’s on my mind.”
Watson closed with a 69 for an 8-under 280 total.
Blixt, also a Masters rookie, shot 71 for the third day in a row but couldn’t sink enough putts to make a serious run.
“I just didn’t get the approaches as close as I wanted,” Blixt said. “I did not give myself enough opportunities to make birdies.”
No Swedish man has ever won a major, and Blixt is certainly mindful of that drought.
“I’d love to be the first one,” he said. “I hope that curse can end soon. I will do as much as I can and work hard as I can to end it.”
Spieth is eager to get back to work, too.
While he figures to have plenty of opportunities to get a major title of his own, this one felt like an opportunity squandered.
“I accomplished one of my goals this year: Get in contention at a major and see how I can do,” Spieth said. “Hopefully going forward, I can do that again. I’ve still got three more this year.”