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AUGUSTA, Ga. – For seven holes Sunday, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth was going to be the youngest Masters winner in history. He was off to what he later described as "a dream start," mixing four birdies with one bogey to take an exhilarating two-shot lead over Bubba Watson as the two golfers walked to the eighth tee.

"It's just so hard to play the first seven holes well out here, and I was 3-under through the first seven," Spieth said, "so if you told me that when I woke up this morning, I would have thought it would be difficult for me to not win this golf tournament."

Less than a half-hour later, in the time it took to play the 8th and 9th holes, Spieth had bogeyed them both, Watson had birdied them both and Spieth suddenly was trailing by two strokes.

The Masters is supposed to start on the back nine on Sunday. It turned out that this one ended before the back nine began.

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Spieth ultimately lost in a bit of an early evening rout, finishing tied for second, three strokes behind Watson.

Over the final 11 holes, Spieth could not muster another birdie, hit his tee shot into Rae's Creek on the par-3 12th and was a collective three-over par. He was unable to put any pressure on Watson coming down the stretch. Several times he dropped his club in disgust after hitting a shot that he didn't like, once even slamming it into the ground.

But Spieth never blew up. He never lost it. Even when a club fell out of his hands, Spieth picked it up and carried on. He ended up with pars on the final six holes to finish with an even-par 72, a remarkable score for a 20-year-old in the final group on the final day of his first Masters.

"I'm very, very pleased, no doubt," he said. "It stings right now, and the only thing I'm thinking about is when am I getting back next year. That's what's on my mind, because it's tough. It's tough being in this position. Obviously 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.

"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 his 9-iron ended up in the water on No. 12 in the heart of Amen Corner, and Watson birdied the par-5 13th to take that three-shot lead, the competition was basically over.

The education of young Jordan Spieth, however, was just beginning.

"I was nervous, but I enjoyed it," he said. "I was not quite as patient today as I was the first three rounds and holding emotions as well. … I hit shots, even some of the shots like No. 17, the flop shot – those shots are really, really hard – that even though I was super nervous on, came out easy, and I'm taking that going forward and I'll be able to draw back on those kind of shots."

Although things were not going his way, there was an ease to Spieth's gait, even a sense of comfort, that showed he belonged right where he was. He said he enjoyed playing with Watson, and because their caddies are close, there was joking and laughter.

"It was a good time," he said. "Whether my face showed it or not on the back nine, I was really, really enjoying myself and taking it all in. Certain shots, you know, just when you want it so bad and so hard right when you strike it, you know it's a little offline, but when you walked up to each green, the standing ovation coming down the back nine of Augusta is a feeling I won't forget."

Sometime in the future, many years from now, when Spieth is as old as Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson is now, people will remember how it all began for him in 2014 at the Masters.

"Ultimately, I'm very happy with the week," he said, "happy with the way my game is going forward, and I've accomplished one of my goals this year, which is to get in contention in a major and see how I can do. Hopefully going forward, I can do that again. There's still three more this year."

And four more next year, and the year after that, and the year after that...

PHOTOS: Best of Sunday at the Masters

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