AMERICAN Jordan Spieth last night announced himself as a serious rival to Rory McIlroy’s status as golf’s pre-eminent force by becoming the second youngest man in history to win the Masters.
Spieth, 21, held his nerve to complete a dazzling wire-to-wire victory and land a first Major title by four shots from England’s Justin Rose and three-time champion Phil Mickelson.
The Texan equalled Tiger Woods’s Masters record low score of 18 under par and would have eclipsed it but for a bogey at the last hole.
“This is the most incredible week in my life. This is as good as it gets,” said Spieth after being presented with the winner’s Green Jacket. “It was very nerve-wracking. I thought it might be a little easier but it wasn’t. I didn’t sleep well last night but got out and got a little rhythm. With two Major champions behind I couldn’t let up.”
Rose and Mickelson kept Spieth under pressure throughout the final day, perhaps in the hope that he might concede the 54-hole lead, as he had 12 months ago when pursued by Bubba Watson, but never did the gap shrink to less fewer three shots.
McIlroy shot a 66 to finish on 12 under par and claim fourth outright, but counted the cost of allowing Spieth to build a seven-stroke advantage on Thursday.
Former world No1 Tiger Woods could not maintain the momentum of rounds two and three, carding a one-over-par 73 to finish in a tie for 17th.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama matched McIlroy’s round to surge to 11 under and take fifth, while Englishmen Paul Casey and Ian Poulter shared sixth after shooting 67s.
Victory brought the fifth title of Spieth’s professional career, and the fourth in the last six months alone. Having broken his duck at the John Deer Classic in July 2013, Spieth did not win again until November last year, when he romped to the Australian Open by six strokes.
Success was even more emphatic a week later at the Hero World Challenge, Woods’s non-tour but high-calibre tournament, which he led from start to finish and won with a record score of 26 under par.
Spieth claimed his second PGA Tour title last month at the Valspar Championship, and followed that with two successive runner-up finishes in his last events before the Masters.
-18 Jordan Spieth
-14 Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose
-12 Rory McIlroy
-11 Hideki Matsuyama
-9 Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson
-8 Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson, Charley Hoffman
Selected others: -6 Rickie Fowler;
-5 Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods; -4 Henrik Stenson; +1 Bubba Watson