Zach Johnson of the United States outclassed South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Australia’s Marc Leishman in a four-hole playoff to win The Open Championship.
Victory was especially sweet for the emotional Johnson as it was his second Major victory since he won The Masters in 2007.
“I’m at a loss for words. But I’m grateful and humbled. I’m thankful. This is the birthplace of the game and that jug means so much,” said a tearful Johnson after watching Oosthuizen miss a birdie putt on the final playoff hole which would have sent the contest into a sudden-death.
“I said it back in 2007 that I feel like God has given me this ability to play the game and blessed me with a talent. I’m going to relish this and I’m humbled by this. But my legacy should be my kids and my family,” added Johnson.
With Johnson, Oosthuizen and Leishman finishing regulation play at 15-under-par 273, the playoff was decided over the first, second, 17th and 18th holes.
Johnson drew first blood with birdies in his first two holes while Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, made birdie-par.
The treacherous road hole saw the trio making bogeys and Leishman was reduced to a mere spectator on the fourth hole after he had earlier bogeyed his first hole.
Oosthuizen had the chance to extend the challenge with a birdie chance on 18 after Johnson had two-putted for par.
But the South African could only watch in disappointment as his putt sailed agonisingly past the cup, giving Johnson the title.
“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,” said Oosthuizen.
Leishman recorded just one bogey in the last two rounds of The Open to post a tournament total of 15-under 273 and finish regulation play tied for the lead with Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen.
The script was writing itself with Australian golf fans on the edge of their seats hoping Leishman, who contemplated giving up the game just months ago in the face off his wife’s life threatening illness, would be the first Australian since Greg Norman in 1993 to win the Claret Jug.
However an unlucky lie on the first playoff hole, which saw Leishman’s drive end in a divot, resulted in a bogey where his two opponents made birdies.
“I drove it straight into a divot which was pretty disappointing, especially with that pin and the burn right in front, I had no chance of getting anywhere near it. That was about as good as I could have done and then I three putted,” said Leishman.
“I was on the back foot as soon as I hit it in that divot and made the five on the first.”
It was too much to overcome for the Victorian, who was aiming to win his first Major, and a further bogey at the 17th sealed his fate as runner-up to Johnson the eventual champion.
“I am obviously pretty disappointed at the minute, having a chance to win it and not being able to take it out but that’s golf unfortunately,” added Leishman.
“I gave it my best shot, Zach just played really well in the playoff and I didn’t have my best stuff there.”
“I am happy don’t worry about that, I have just finished second in The Open, yes I could have won it but my perspective is quite good at the moment.”
“I can go home tomorrow and hug Audrey (his wife) and the boys and celebrate a little bit I guess, it would have been nice to have a Claret Jug to drink out of but I will find something else,” added Leishman.
Jordan Spieth’s attempt at a third Major championship (and the pursuit of a Calendar Grand Slam) fell painfully short, with the American finishing one shot shy of the playoff. A 4-putt on the 8th hole, as well as a missed short putt on the 17th, effectively wiped out the American’s chances of glory.
It was a day of near misses for the Aussie contingent with Jason Day watching his birdie putt, to join the playoff, on the 18th come up short.
Day finished his Open campaign on 14-under 274 tied fourth with Jordan Spieth, who also looked destined for the playoff, until a bogey on the 17th ended his hopes of winning the Major Grand Slam.
For Adam Scott it felt like déjà vu, the Queenslander was well in contention, bogey free and 6-under after 10 holes.
But a horrible run coming home, which saw Scott drop five shots in five holes, ended his hopes and had him finish in a share of 10th on 10-under 278.
“It’s hard to digest it all at the moment,” Scott following his round.
“I probably needed a really good back nine and I had a really poor back nine. I feel like I wasn’t even in it at that moment.””I’m disappointed the way I played the last five holes for sure. I could have done a lot better than that.”
Marcus Fraser was next best of the Aussies on 7-under the card and in a share of 20th, he was closely followed by Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch on 6-under 282.
Scott Arnold closed his Major debut in style, firing 6-under 66 in the final round to catapult himself up the leaderboard into tied 40th on 5-under the card. He was joined by John Senden and Geoff Ogilvy.
Greg Chalmers was the next best of the Aussies finishing on 3-under 285 and tied 58th while Brett Rumford rounded out the Australian contingent in a tied for 74th with an even par championship.
The Open was another strong performance from the Australians on the world stage.
“Australian Professional golfers continue to shine on the world stage, having three Aussies finish in the top-10 and four in the top-20 is a phenomenal effort and is a testament to the quality of the game, coaching and junior programs we have in Australia.” said Brian Thorburn, CEO of the PGA of Australia.
“It was wonderful to see Marc play so well, particularly in the face of everything he has dealt with in his personal life.”
“A Claret Jug would have been tremendous reward for his performance this week, it wasn’t to be, but I am sure a Major victory is not far off for him.”
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The Open witnessed a Monday finish for the first time since 1988 after gusty wind conditions disrupted play for much of the day on Saturday, leading the tournament to go into overtime.