In a 144th British Open that saw the tournament pushed back an entire day, and a crowded leaderboard in the final round, there were more than a few moments when it seemed like the seas would part ways, and 21-year-old Jordan Spieth would complete the third leg in the rare accomplishment of a calendar Grand Slam – something no one has done in the modern era.
However, Spieth made a crucial error in the 71st hole, and it paved the way for Zach Johnson to win his second career major.
Johnson, the 39-year-old tour pro from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cashed in on a three-man, four-hole playoff with Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman to win the Claret Jug at the historic St. Andrews Golf Course. It capped off a final day in which he came back from a three-shot deficit and shot a field-low 66. He outplayed Oosthuizen – who had started the day tied with Jason Day and amateur Paul Dunne for the 54-hole lead – and Leishman in the first two playoff holes to secure the ultimate victory. It was a combination of outstanding wedge play and solid putting that put him over the top on Monday.
Meanwhile, Spieth – who started the day one stroke back of the leaders – was in prime position to join the threesome in the four-hole playoff. He made an amazing long putt to go to 15-under par after the 16th hole, and only needed to par out to reach the playoff (or grab a birdie on 17 or 18 to win the whole thing, going away). However, he missed an 8-foot par putt on 17 to put him back of the leaders by one. Needing a birdie to rejoin his place in the playoff, he could not make a difficult birdie putt, and was shut out. Ultimately, it was one too many mistakes – more specifically, a double bogey on the 8th hole – that did the Dallas native in.
Leave it to Spieth, though, to show his sense of sportsmanship – he stuck around long after his tournament had ended to congratulate Johnson on the Open Championship victory.
In denying the hotshot Longhorn his chance at golf history, Johnson actually made a little history of his own. With his win at the Masters in 2007, coupled with his latest major victory at The Old Course, Johnson becomes the sixth golfer to win majors at St. Andrews and Augusta National. In doing so, he joins a rather elite list of golfers: Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. Considering they are a “Who’s Who” of history’s greatest professional golfers, it’s certainly a list that the 12-time PGA Tour winner will consider a badge of honor.
As for Spieth? He will have to put behind him, as he put it afterwards, because “it stings a little bit,” and take the next 23 days to prepare for the PGA Championship. Alas, he still has a chance for the historic feat of sweeping the three American majors in a calendar year.
But for now, the spotlight is on the unassuming tour pro who conquered the elements, the noise, the phenom, and the field to win the coveted Claret Jug.