Momentous Sunday at Augusta

Matching the lowest score in Masters history, Jordan Spieth earned his Green Jacket at just the second attempt and ushered in a new era for golf on a momentous Sunday at Augusta National.

Momentous Sunday at Augusta

Aged just 21, eight months and 16 days, Spieth, may be five months older than Tiger Woods was when he became the youngest Masters champion in 1997 but the kid from Dallas, Texas proved equal to the man who would rule golf for more than a decade by equalling his record low score of 270 for 72 holes.

A bogey at the last mattered not for Spieth who becomes the fourth player to win the Masters wire to wire having become the first player to reach 19 under par with a birdie at the 15th.

He won it with 18 under, four shots ahead of his nearest challengers the vastly more experienced Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, and five in front of another major champion in Rory McIlroy, whose world number one ranking is now in his sights after this Augusta National tour de force.

Spieth will move to number two with this remarkable victory and will give golf what the game's followers hope will be an enduring rivalry with four-time major winner McIlroy, the Irishman whose quest for the Master victory to complete his career slam will have to wait at least another year.

For now, though, all the plaudits belong to Spieth and McIlroy led them for a golfer who had set records for the lowest Masters scores for 36 and 54 holes en route to his first major, just 12 months after finishing runner-up to Bubba Watson on his Augusta National debut.

“What he's done is very, very impressive and I am fortunate enough to have felt something similiar when I won (the US Open) at Congressional so it's a special time for him to walk up the last hole and enjoy the occasion and let it all sink in,” McIlroy said of Spieth.

"It's not a feeling many people get especially in winning your first major championship. That guy (pointing to Tiger Woods) had it here in 1997 and I was fortunate enough and now Jordan is fortunate to experience it. "I am very happy for him as he's been playing great and for a 21-year old he is far more mature than me than when I was 21 years of age."

Having set the pace from day one with an eight-under-par 64 on Thursday and backed it up with rounds of 69, 70 and a closing 70 on Sunday, Spieth displayed impressive temperament and maturity to go with his stellar game, resisting every challenge launched at him by his rivals and rebounding quickly from any mis-step he made of his own, particularly during a final round when Rose and Mickelson threatened to close the gap on his four-shot overnight lead.

Whenever they closed the gap, Spieth matched them and on the three occasions he dropped shots he found a way to regroup and regain those lost shots. By the time he reached the last he had five shots to play with but used up only one before sinking the winning putt on 18, bowing his head for a moment and then pulling up his chin once more to reveal the widest of grins. “It's been the most incredible week of my life,” Spieth said. “This is as great as it gets in our sport.

This is a dream come true for me and to be able to - I didn't break 70 last year, even having a chance to win, where I got edged out by Bubba here. But to shoot some low rounds and so see some putts go in out here and to hear the roars, it was remarkable.”

Rose also bogeyed the last for a 70 to fall back into a share of second place with Mickelson who had rattled in three successive rounds in the 60s, the three-time Masters champion closing with a 69, two shots ahead of McIlroy.

The world number one shot the joint low round of the day, is seven-under 66 matching Japan's Hideki Matsuyama who a shot behind the Irishman on 11 under. For McIlroy, who had toyed with a missed cut on Friday night at two over par after double-bogeying the ninth hole, it completed a stretch which had seen score 15 under par over his last 45 holes.

His finishing position of 12 under for fourth place was easily his best scoring performance at Augusta National and one that would have own him a Green Jacket in most other years but this one.

“I played well,” McIlroy said. “Obviously very happy with how the weekend went, and even the last nine holes of Friday, which I needed to just get in for the weekend. “Happy with how I played, obviously going to take a lot of positives from it.

If someone had told me I'd finish 12 under at the start of the week, I would have taken it and sat back and seen where I finished. “But a few guys have just played a bit better than that. Jordan obviously started off fantastically well, and has just kept his foot down, and really impressive.”

McIlroy had played his final round with a resurgent Woods, back in form after a nine-week break from competition to fix his game and a bad back. Sunday may have proved a round too far for the four-time Masters winner, though, his closing 73 a mixed bag of errant swings and missed putts as he settled for a tie for 17th place with Sergio Garcia at six under par.

“Considering where I was at Torrey and Phoenix (before taking his sabbatical), to make that complete swing change and the release pattern, I'm pretty proud of what I've done,” Woods said.

“To make my short game my strength again was pretty sweet. That's something that I have worked my butt off to get to that point. “And no one knows how hard we had to work to get to this point, but I'm very pleased. This is my first tournament back, being a Major Championship, and to give myself a chance, it felt good.”

Woods also revealed he had knocked a bone out of its joint when striking a tree root hidden underneath pine straw as he played a rescue shot out of the trees at the ninth hole.

“A bone kind of popped out and the joint kind of went out of place, but I put it back in,” he said.

More in this section

Ireland's Top 10 Hidden Gems

Ten of the best golf courses in Ireland that too few people know about.

Read Here

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox