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AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Bubba Watson withstood an inspired early challenge from playing partner Jordan Spieth to clinch the Masters for a second time in three years with a three-shot victory at Augusta National on Sunday.
Trailing the prodigiously talented Spieth by two strokes after four holes, left-hander Watson took advantage of a stumbling run by his fellow American around the turn as he upped his own game, then maintained control on the back nine.
Watson, who landed his first major title with a thrilling playoff win over South African Louis Oosthuizen in 2012, mixed five birdies with two bogeys to card a three-under-par 69 on a warm but mainly overcast afternoon.
The 35-year-old from Bagdad in Florida, known for his distance off the tee and his audacious shot-making, covered the back nine in even par to post an eight-under total of 280.
Spieth, at 20 aiming to become the youngest player to win the Masters, had to settle for a share of second place at five under after signing off with a 72, finishing level with Swede Jonas Blixt (71).
Pony-tailed Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, at the ripe age of 50 aiming to surpass Jack Nicklaus by becoming the oldest Masters winner, placed fourth after also carding a 71.
American world number seven Matt Kuchar, seeking his first major victory, briefly held a share of the lead after three holes but then struggled on a layout running fast and firm on the way to a 74 and a tie for fifth with Rickie Fowler (73).
German veteran Bernhard Langer, a double Masters champion, rolled back the years with a closing 69 to finish at even par, level with five others including Rory McIlroy (69) and American Jimmy Walker (70).
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry