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But never made another birdie after that, playing his final 11 holes in 3-over fashion, with bogeys on Nos. 8, 9 and 12.

“It’s a stinger,” Spieth said of the loss. “I had it my hand and could have gone forward with it. I didn’t quite make the putts. That’s what it came down to. The only thing I’m thinking about is: ‘when do I get back next year?’”

Watson opened with rounds of 69-68-74 and finished at 8-under 280, the highest winning score since Trevor Immelman’s 283 in 2008. When Watson won in 2012, he shot 278.

It was one of the quietest back nines in recent memory, which was fine with Watson.

“There wasn’t too many birdies after No. 10, I don’t think,” he said.

Watson played the back nine in even-par 36 with a bogey on No. 10 and a birdie on No. 13 after shooting 33 on the front.

“That was some incredible golf he played down the stretch to hold it together and make his pars,” Spieth said. “Bubba Watson is a deserving Masters champion this year.”

It was a strong showing by the much-ballyhooed rookie class. Spieth and Blixt tied for second and Jimmy Walker (70 on Sunday) and Kevin Stadler (73) both tied for eighth place. They will all be back next year by finishing in the top 12, which is automatic qualifier, as Watson goes for his third win in four years.

The 35-year-old Watson, who moved from 12th to fourth in world rankings with the win, earned a Masters record $1,620,000 for the victory, or $180,000 more than Adam Scott won last year.

The anticipated shootout in the pines never materialized. Of the 13 players within five shots of the lead entering the final round, Watson was the only one to shoot in the 60s.

“Nobody really caught fire,” Watson said.

It was 20th time in the past 24 years that the winner came out of the final Sunday pairing, but the first time it’s happened since 2010.

It was shaping up to be a two-man race between Watson and Spieth on the front nine. Spieth birdied four of his first seven holes, highlighted by a holed-out bunker shot on No. 4, to take a two shot lead over Watson after seven.

By the time the two hit the back nine, Watson had picked up four shots on Spieth and was two shots ahead. Watson birdied No. 8 while Spieth made bogey to even it up. Watson then also birdied No. 9 and Spieth made bogey, missing a short par putt.

“Nos. 8 and 9 were the turning points of the day,” Spieth said. “When I got to No. 10, I still thought I could get back into it.”

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