St. Andrews, Scotland (SportsNetwork.com) – Coming into the Open Championship, much of the focus was on a Masters champion going for the grand slam.
In the end, it was another Masters winner, Zach Johnson, that earned the Claret Jug. Johnson birdied the first two playoff holes en route to winning the Open Championship on Monday at St. Andrews.
The 2007 Masters winner got the best of 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a playoff to win his second major championship crown.
Johnson, who played four groups in front of Leishman and six ahead of Oosthuizen, fired a 6-under 66 to post 15-under-par 273. Leishman also shot 66 to tie Johnson.
“Dreams have been realized and goals accomplished. I’m humbled and honored to be your champion golfer of the year,” Johnson said at the trophy presentation. “Honored to be invited and now as your champion, it’s just a little bit more surreal.”
Oosthuizen, who won his title on the Old Course at St. Andrews, birdied the 18th for the third time this week to card a 3-under 69 and earn a spot in the extra session.
In the playoff, the trio played the first, second, 17th and 18th. Johnson opened birdie-birdie to move one ahead of Oosthuizen, who birdied the first and parred the second.
Leishman was two shots back right off the bat as he 3-putted for bogey on the first. Oosthuizen and Leishman parred the second before the trio headed to 17.
Johnson missed the green left, then chipped across the putting surface and into the rough. He nearly chipped in for par, but kicked in his bogey effort. Oosthuizen and Leishman both 3-putted for bogey from the front of the green.
It came down to Johnson and Oosthuizen at 18. Both found the green with their second shots. Johnson was just outside 15 feet and Oosthuizen a few feet closer.
Johnson’s birdie try missed on the right edge and it was up to Oosthuizen. The South African could have forced another hole with a birdie, but his putt narrowly missed as well and the Claret Jug was Johnson’s.
“You don’t like to see a tournament end on a miss. I hate that and Louis is a champion and a friend,” said an emotional Johnson in a greenside interview. “This is the birthplace of the game. That jug means so much in sports, specifically this tournament and golf.”
Johnson joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Sam Snead as the six players to win majors at Augusta and St. Andrews.
That other Masters winner that was the headliner entering the week — Jordan Spieth — missed the playoff by one stroke. A bogey on the 17th and a par at the last closed out a 3-under 69, which left him tied for fourth at minus-15. Spieth, who had also won the U.S. Open, was joined there by playing partner Jason Day, who shot 2-under 70 on Monday.
“We gave it a great effort. Going out today. I didn’t think three guys would get to 15-under in these conditions, and so, that was my goal. At the beginning of the day, it was 4-under for the round and we got there on 16,” stated Spieth. “Ideally, you can finish par-birdie is perfect way to finish out here and that would have gotten the job done. So, it stings a little bit, but ultimately we gave it a really run and there was phenomenal golf played by those three guys.”
Sergio Garcia, 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, Danny Willett and amateur Jordan Niebrugge all closed with 2-under 70s. They shared sixth place at 11- under-par 277.
Adam Scott (71) and Brooks Koepka (68) were one stroke further back at minus-10. Scott had six birdies over the first 10 holes to gain a share of the lead, but dropped five shots over the last five holes. Scott has had at least a piece of the lead on the back nine in the final round in three of the last four years.
Amateur Paul Dunne, who shared the third-round lead with Oosthuizen and Day, shot 6-over 42 on the back nine as he closed with a 78. Dunne fell into a tie for 30th at 6-under-par 282.
Spieth was the first to join the overnight leaders as he birdied the first from nine feet. Padraig Harrington birdied the first two holes to make it five leaders.
Oosthuizen poured in a birdie chance at the first to move one ahead at 13- under. Johnson, who birdied three of four holes from the second, rolled in a 4-footer for birdie at seven to join Oosthuizen in the lead.
Scott, the 2013 Masters champ, birdied the seventh to make it three leaders, then Leishman and Harrington both birdied the fifth and there were again five atop the leaderboard.
Johnson moved in front by himself for the first time with a 5-foot birdie putt at nine. Scott poured in a 25-footer for birdie at nine to join his fellow Masters winner at 14-under.
At the 10th, Johnson made birdie to move in front at 15-under. Spieth birdied the sixth from 13 feet out to inch within one. Day, who played with Spieth in the final round, also birdied No. 6 to join Spieth and Scott in second place.
Scott drove the green at 10 and 2-putted for birdie and a share. However, that was Scott’s last birdie. Johnson birdied the 12th, but gave that right back at 13 and was still tied with Scott.
Spieth looked to fall out of the picture as he 4-putted for double-bogey from over 100 feet from the hole on the par-3 eighth. He came right back with birdies on the next two holes to get back within one.
Leishman, who birdied four of the first five holes, birdied three of four holes from the ninth to soar into the lead at 16-under.
Oosthuizen moved within one as he birdied the 12th. Johnson slipped on his approach shot to the 17th and that led to a bogey. That put him two back, but he poured in a 25-footer for birdie at 18 to inch back within one of Leishman’s lead.
With that birdie Johnson was the first to post 15-under. Leishman found sand at 16 and that led to a bogey, which dropped him into a tie with Johnson. That was Leishman’s first dropped shot since No. 17 in round two.
Spieth electrified the crowd with a birdie at 16, which gave him a share of the lead. Leishman parred the last to join Johnson in the clubhouse at minus-15. Spieth missed an 8-footer for par at 17, then parred the last to end one shot out of the playoff.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed. Definitely had my chances, but it’s golf at the end of the day. I’ll be able to go home and hug my wife and boys, and life goes on,” said Leishman, whose wife nearly died earlier this year from an infection. “That bogey on 16, that was my only bogey. Obviously, I’d love to have that putt again, but a lot of good stuff on the last two days.”
Oosthuizen, who tripped to a bogey at 13th, birdied the last to earn his spot in the playoff.
“I had a lot of chances today. I did well to get into the playoff,” Oosthuizen said. “Zach left the door open on 17 and I couldn’t take advantage of it, so well done to him. I putted beautifully all week, I just misread those putts on 17 and 18.”
NOTES: Johnson won for the 12th time on the PGA Tour and second time on the European Tour … The last five 54-hole leaders of the Open Championship at St. Andrews had gone on to win … Leishman’s closing 36 holes of 64-66 was the best closing 36 holes in Open history … The European Tour is in Switzerland next week for the Omega European Masters, where David Lipsky will defend his title, while the PGA Tour has the RBC Canadian Open, where Tim Clark will defend his crown.