The final round at St. Andrews was too close to call until the final putt was sank yesterday with players making moves from all over the leaderboard. Zach Johnson, previous Masters champion, was the victor at the end of a four-hole playoff.
The American has been there or there about in more than a few major championships, a dark horse on many occasions. All the talk yesterday was of Louis Oosthuizen, who looked to win consecutive Open Championships at the Old Course. Or it was of Jordan Spieth, who vied to become the first man to win the first 3 majors of the year since Ben Hogan accomplished the feat in 1953. Even amateur Paul Dunne was talked about more than Zach Johnson – the young Irishman was trying to become the first amateur to win The Open since Bobby Jones did so in 1930.
It was not to be the day of any of these men however. The day started of in an exciting fashion as usual, with “The Old Lady” dropping her guard and inviting players to make birdie extravaganzas. Charges were made from all over the leaderboard, Marc Leishman and Zach Johnson eventually shooting six-under 66’s. Jordan Spieth started off incredibly well, and could have won the Championship outright but for a double bogey at 8, then 9 holes later at the 17th. Adam Scott also crumbled under the pressure, getting himself to a joint share of the lead on -15, before obliterating this in the last 5 holes, for which he was five-over par.
At the end of regulation play, just three were left, the challengers falling away one by one as the day went by. Louis Oosthuizen, a defending champion of sorts knows what it is like to win here – he did so in 2010, the last time The Open was played at the home of golf. Then there was Marc Leishman, the Australian who was not really in contention after two days, with an uninspired total of one-under. On Saturday though, he charged on with an eight-under 64, putting him just a few shots off the lead. Even then, nobody really expected him to mount a serious challenge for the lead. But challenge he did, shooting an impressive six-under on Monday.
Then there was Zach Johnson. He was six-under after the first round, right in contention. However, he fell away from the pack slightly over the next two days, shooting a 71 followed by a 70. Playing himself back into contention early on Sunday, he manoeuvred himself into a three-way playoff over four holes.
The early advantage went to Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen, both with birdies at the first playoff hole, as Leishman ended his challenge with a bogey. Then the advantage went to Zach Johnson, as he birdied the second hole to give himself an advantage over the South African. Three bogeys at 17 represented a missed opportunity for Oosthuizen, after he failed to capitalise on a bounced chip from Johnson. A short putt like this would give him another chance at levelling the score on 18. Johnson missed his birdie putt, and Oosthuizen was left with a 10-footer to extend the playoff. The swing was too much though, and he sent it just wide of the hole, sealing the victory of Zach Johnson.
The American was awash with emotion, fighting back tears in his post match interview. His words were gracious, saying he felt honoured and blessed to become a part of the history of the tournament, especially with the names that has preceded him.
Author Eoghan Aston.
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