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Watson reclaims Masters leaderboard, green jacket with holes to spare

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The Masters tournament was down to a two-man show on the leaderboard on April 13. Although Matt Kuchar briefly made it a three-man show early, it was clear the Masters would come down to the final pairing of 2012 champion Bubba Watson and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. But when the leaderboard cleared up for Watson at the end of the front nine, the back nine was a one-man show as his second green jacket was assured.

Watson ultimately took the Masters back by three shots over Spieth and Jonas Blixt, cruising to a final round 69 after early difficulties. Beforehand, it looked every bit like Spieth's time, as four early birdies put him ahead by two shots going into the eighth.

In a Masters tournament without Tiger Woods, having Spieth around to break Woods' record for youngest champion seemed like perfect symmetry. But before Spieth could be proclaimed the next Woods, he finally showed his youth by bogeying the eighth and ninth holes. In contrast, Watson showed his experience by birding those holes, turning a two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead.

Spieth bogeyed the 12'th hole and pared the rest of the final holes, which wasn't nearly enough. Although Watson bogeyed the 10'th, a birdie on 13 and seven pars kept anyone from catching him. While he needed a playoff to win his first green jacket, the end of the front nine made the back nine a foregone conclusion.

The eighth and ninth holes, as well as five straight birdies from the 12'th to 16'th holes in the second round, decided the Masters for Watson this time. But despite how winning at Augusta has become easier for Watson, its winning everywhere else that has been a problem, as he only had one other victory since his 2012 green jacket -- and that came earlier this year.

A second post-Masters hangover won't prove Watson can succeed Woods and Phil Mickelson in the long term. Given what Spieth did until those eighth and ninth holes, he still positioned himself as the PGA's next big thing if all goes well.

To prove they aren't flukes, Watson and Spieth will look for big repeat performances at the U.S. Open in two months -- another major without Woods. The Masters had enough power at the leaderboard without him much of the way, but the Open may need some more thrills at the end.

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