Jordan Spieth takes his Masters shot

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DALLAS -- The best thing about Jordan Spieth's first PGA Tour victory in July wasn't the $828,000 winner's check (though that was nice). Or his pick of the sponsor's off-road utility vehicles (the four-wheeler sits in his parent's carport). Or the exclusive 100-seat charter flight to Edinburgh for the Open Championship (first class for everyone).

The best thing arrived around Christmastime in a 7½-by-5½-inch envelope. It cost 66 cents to send, but Augusta National could afford the extra postage.

Hello, Masters invitation.

"It's just heaven on earth," said Spieth.

Sometimes it really isn't about the money. Sometimes it's about something as basic and innocent as a dream come true. And Spieth's dream has always been to play -- and win -- the Masters.

Spieth is one of 24 players appearing in his first Masters this week. He's doing his best to act as if it's just another business trip, but it isn't working. He's 20 going on 12.

This is a guy who, during one of his first visits to Augusta National, took a right off Washington Road onto Magnolia Lane and was attacked immediately by goose bumps.

"Where's the driving range? Where's the putting green? Where's the first tee? I just wanted to get out and look at everything," said Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

This is a guy who has already made millions, played in the Walker Cup and Presidents Cup, played with a U.S. president, won the U.S. Junior Amateur twice, contended in a PGA Tour event when he was 16 and had nine top-10 finishes last season -- and he still got a case of the first-tee nerves during his first round at Augusta National.

"And that never happens unless it's a PGA event," said Spieth, who shot 68 that day. "I don't think I can remember the last time I've been nervous to play a standard, fun, social round."

And he can't remember the last time he got to the 17th hole of a practice round and told his playing partners, "Now it's getting depressing, because we're almost done." But it happened to him at Augusta National.

Spieth has had a crush on the Masters since he was a kid. He said so when he was 7, hitting early morning wedge shots over a neighbor's tree before school and landing them on a tiny, self-mowed green in his front yard.

"Pretending it was the last shot, hitting it close and making the putt to win a tournament, win a major like the Masters," said his younger brother Steven, now a freshman basketball guard at Brown.

He said so when he was 9, waking up his mom, Chris, on Saturday mornings and asking for a ride to nearby Brookhaven Country Club.

"He'd be fully dressed in golf clothes, hat and all, with his golf bag over his back," said Chris. "'Can I go now? Can I go now?'"

He said so when he was 12, meeting for the first time with Cameron McCormick, a golf instructor at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas. McCormick asked Spieth the same question he asks all his prospective students: "What are you looking to achieve in the long term?"

"I want to win the Masters," Spieth told him, without hesitation.

"He said it with such a conviction, such a self-assuredness that it made me instantaneously believe and embrace that, wow, this kid really thinks he can achieve it," said McCormick.

And he said so when he was a teenager at Brookhaven.

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