Open Glory for Johnson
Zach Johnson ended an eight-year wait for his second major title after winning the Open Championship in a three-way play-off.
The 39-year-old American, who claimed a two-stroke victory at the 2007 Masters tournament, edged out Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a four-hole play-off at St Andrews on Monday to add a Claret Jug to his Green Jacket.
Earlier, Johnson had carded a remarkable 66 to force his way into the reckoning, making seven early birdies before dropping two shots in his next five to fall back.
Knowing he needed something special at the last, Johnson’s snaking, downhill effort for birdie went straight into the hole as he set the clubhouse target on 15 under par.
Leishman, meanwhile, held the sole lead on 16 under after his seventh birdie of the day at the 12th, but a bogey at 16 meant a 66 and a 15 under par total as well.
Jordan Spieth needed a birdie at the last to keep his calendar grand slam dreams alive, but his approach went down into the Valley of Sin and he couldn’t hole out from there as he fell one stroke short.
Only Oosthuizen still had a chance of forcing his way into a play-off with a birdie at 18 and the South African delivered with a clutch six-footer.
The players would head back out and play the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th, with the best aggregate score taking the victory.
Leishman’s challenge would come to an early end when he bogeyed the first straight out of the gate, even as Johnson and Oosthuizen made solid putts to record birdies. That left the Australian two behind his rivals and he was never really able to recover from there.
On the second, Oosthuizen and Leishman’s birdie efforts came up just short, but Johnson made no mistake with his putt to take the lead on two under.
Johnson appeared to have made a big error when he left his approach at 17 behind the Road Hole bunker, but Oosthuizen couldn’t capitalise on the error, three-putting from the front of the green as both made bogeys.
With a one-shot lead for Johnson heading to the 18th, Oosthuizen needed a closing birdie, but he misread his six-footer, allowing Johnson to clinch the title with two putts from 12 feet.
Asked by the BBC what the words 2015 Open Champion sounded like, Zach Johnson said: “It sounds beautiful. It still sounds extremely sureal. The tone to it is very humbling. I feel blessed to be the champion and honoured to be part of the history of this game.
“To don my name on that trophy is humbling and surreal.
“It has been a week of patience, courage and trust. I can’t play any better than I did. I just stayed in it, waited for the opportunities and made a few putts.
“My wife and I are the team. She’s the CEO as she claims. She’s my rock. It doesn’t matter what I shoot she’s there. She is the head of it and it trickles down to my family and friends.”
Johnson spared a thought for Oosthuizen, adding: “I don’t like seeing it end on a miss. Louis is a friend, buddy and a tremendous competitor.”
At the presentation ceremony, an emotional but eloquent Johnson added: “I would like to congratulate Jordan, Louis and Marc – they could be standing here now. This has been a trying week. For us players it is never easy but, with the elements, the golf course played fantastic. The green staff, and such like have been tremendous. They are the champions.
“It was a beautiful Scottish sunny day and you guys came out. The fans have been fantastic. It has been a pleasure to play in front of you.”
A disappointed Oosthuizen said: “I love it around here. I love this golf course. I played well, did well to get into the play-off. It was a really tough back nine. I made good putts, I’m not going to look back at the misses on 17 and 18. Well done to Zach.
“The final putt was a tough little shot and I just misread it.
“It’s never nice to lose a playoff. I had the experience in 2012 at Augusta and I felt like I really had a good chance of winning this tournament. But I was just outplayed in the playoff,” he added.
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