In professional golf tournaments, the player walking the course with the current lowest score is called the "leader." The scoreboard is the leaderboard. Each day, announcers size up the leader going into the next round.

Some players actually embody the word. Plenty of others do not.

But Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old phenom who won the Masters on Sunday, is one of the former. He won on golf's most hallowed ground in commanding fashion: He shot 18-under par, tying Tiger Woods' 1997 win and, until the final hole on Sunday, looked as if he might best even that. After the first two rounds, he had the lowest 36-hole score in Masters history. He led the tournament each of four days, a feat that hasn't been accomplished in 39 years. Little wonder he's being crowned golf's next great.

Yet just as impressive as what Spieth did last week on the course was how he did it. He handled himself with humility, for one. He gave credit to his lucky breaks, such as a ball that landed in the middle of the fairway after bouncing off a tree branch. He shrugged off a string of birdies. He asked a former sixth-grade teacher to serve as his caddie, rather than someone seasoned. He refers to older golfers as "Mr."

Spieth has said he attributes his grounded nature to his 14-year-old sister, Ellie, who has a neurological disorder that places her on the autism spectrum. It's humbling to see the struggles she goes through every day, he has said — things he and others take for granted. His father also reminded him before this year's Masters that it's just a game.

"I'm a professional golfer," Spieth said at a charity concert last year, "but what I do on the course I want to be secondary to what I do off the course."

Spieth has also put the past behind him, learned from his mistakes and used a painful loss to motivate him when he got the chance again. At last year's Masters, he fell just short of the green jacket, tying for second, three shots behind winner Bubba Watson. He said at the time that the just-shy loss would sting until he got himself back in the same position at Augusta, and admitted the error was an opportunity.

"In the long run," Spieth said in an ESPN radio interview last year, "it's probably better that it worked out that way than if I pulled it off, because now I'll sit back and look at it and realize you just have to stick to that original game plan out there and you can't get greedy."

Better indeed. After all, it's hard to get much better than Spieth's performance over the past four days — unless, of course, it's done with the humility, grace and character that this new leader of the game displayed this week both on the course and off.

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