Zach Johnson finds precious metal at The Open
History beckoned for golden child Jordan Spieth, but it was the iron will of Zach Johnson that won the 2015 [British] Open at St Andrews.
Johnson won his second major title over the ancient Old Course, after edging a three-man playoff against South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman. The three golfers finished tied on 273, 15 under par, after 72 holes, with Spieth and Australian Jason Day finishing a shot off the lead.
“These are the things you dream about,” said Johnson, 39, in speaking to the media after the trophy presentation, as he sat clasping the Claret Jug on his lap. “These are the things you’ve worked to get to. I’m humbled because there are a lot of individuals who have put me in this position who trust in me, and I trust in them. I’m humbled by the talent I’ve been given, and because of what’s in my lap and the names that are etched on this piece of metal, that is very special. It’s the who’s who of the game – the guys who paved the way.”
As the afternoon breezes softened and the evening clouds darkened over St Andrews, Johnson took the early initiative in the four-hole playoff. Birdie putts of eight feet at the first extra hole and 12 feet at the second earned Johnson the lead, and when Oosthuizen saw his six-foot birdie putt just miss on the 18th green, Johnson had won.
“The key for the week was patience and perseverance, without question, and in the playoff in particular”, said Johnson, whose first major success was in the 2007 Masters. “I can’t really play any better than I did. I stayed in it and stayed in it and stayed in it, and waited for the opportunities, and luckily I made a few.”
From the first round it looked as though Johnson would win at St Andrews, but is was the other one – Dustin – who looked destined to win his first major. Third and fourth round scores of 75, three over par, ultimately left D. Johnson stranded down the field, while a tightly packed leaderboard full of world-class quality produced a vintage race right until the end of this championship.
Adam Scott mounted a convincing charge for 13 holes and shared the lead with Leishman, but the 2013 Masters winner faded dramatically down the closing stretch, as he did in 2012. Sergio Garcia did too, having nearly reached the top of the pile in a major yet again. Leishman looked like he was going to be the unlikely champ after shooting a front nine of 31, five under par, until he missed a four footer for par on 16.
“I am pretty disappointed at the minute, having a chance to win and not being able to make it, but that’s golf unfortunately,” said Leishman, 31, who finished in a tie for fifth at the 2014 [British] Open. “I’m happy. I’ve just finished second in The Open… I can go home and celebrate a little bit I guess. It would have been nice to have the Claret Jug to drink out of, but I’ll find something else.”
“It’s never nice to lose a playoff,” said Oosthuizen, 32, who lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff at the 2012 Masters. “But I’ll take a lot out of this week. I was really motivated to win. I love this place. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I can’t wait for [The Open] to come back here again.
“This to me was probably one of the most exciting Opens,” added Oosthuizen, 32, who had his heart set on becoming only the sixth golfer to win the British Open at St Andrews twice, having won the Claret Jug there in 2010. “A lot of guys will take a lot of good out of this, and you know, it’ll be great for golf if this is going to be the way forward.”