By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PONTE VEDRA BEACH Florida (Reuters) - Having established himself as the most exciting young prospect in the game, Jordan Spieth was left bitterly disappointed after suffering another near miss at the Players Championship on Sunday.
A month after slipping back into a tie for second at the Masters where he led by two shots early on in the final round, the 20-year-old American again relinquished an outright lead as he faded into a share of fourth place at the TPC Sawgrass.
Five bogeys in 11 holes from the fifth led to his undoing as Spieth, aiming to become the youngest champion at the PGA Tour event widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major, had to settle for a closing two-over-par 74.
"I got off to a good start again and felt great," the Texan, who had briefly moved one stroke in front with birdies at the second and fourth, told reporters. "Obviously nerves were there, but I felt a little more comfortable today.
"I got a couple birdies early ... I was 14 under, and then the winning score is 13 under. I was there during part of the round, so that's tough to swallow.
"I just left myself in tough positions on approach shots and just got a little quick. I would have had to have putted out of my mind with the places I was leaving myself."
Spieth has already piled up an impressive list of achievements since the start of his sensational debut season on the 2013 PGA Tour but that counted for little for him on Sunday as he reflected on yet another wasted opportunity.
"I'm stinging right now," said the American, who won his maiden title on the U.S. circuit at the John Deere Classic in July on the way to a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team and securing rookie of the year honors.
"It's not fun being that close and having opportunities and being in the lead on Sunday and not pulling it off. It's something that I don't feel like I've struggled with throughout my whole career, going back to junior days.
"So I don't think much of it (career success), other than I didn't have any of my best stuff. I'm disappointed right now in how I performed, but, you know, I think I'm on the path to good things."
Spieth conceded he was accumulating much needed experience in learning how to be comfortable in PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the lead.
"It's been a great year of putting myself in a lot of positions and having new experiences instead of having to come from behind trying to hold leads," he said after finishing three strokes behind winner Martin Kaymer of Germany.
"I think that is something that takes a little time to adapt to and hopefully I'm done trying now."
In Spieth's favor is the fact that his next two PGA Tour events are in his home state of Texas, next week's Byron Nelson Championship and the May 22-25 Crowne Plaza Invitational.
"I'm going to two courses I've had success at, at home, with a great fan base there in Dallas," he said.
"I still think that I'm playing extremely good golf going into golf courses I'm familiar with and atmospheres that are, I feel, like a major championship for me."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ian Ransom)