Emotional Zach Johnson wins play-off at St Andrews in The Open
They came in their thousands to the home of golf. St Andrews, in all its majesty welcomed a new champion, on the unspoiled shores of the Scottish coast.
At a place where scholars walk year round, America’s Zach Johnson schooled a chasing pack comprised of past winners and venerable veterans, not just in golf, but the virtues of humility in his winners speech.
Following a final round, where at one point any one of 10 could have won, it was left to Johnson, Australia’s Marc Leishman and 2013 event champion Louis Oosthuizen to battle it out in a four-hole play-off to complete the longest Open of all time after wild weather forced a fifth day’s play.
Reaching the clubhouse on 15-under-par, Johnson was soon joined by Leishman on the same score and all the duo could do was watch as challengers tried and failed to better the target set for them. With just four remaining, two-time 2015 major winner Jordan Spieth, and his partner Jason Day came agonisingly close; the latter more so as it came down to just one shot for him on the 18th hole.
It wasn’t to be and Oosthuizen, instead held his nerve to force a three-way play-off with a birdie on the last. His partner and Saturday’s hero, amateur Paul Dunne had cracked under the pressure of the occasion as he finished on six-under-par.
And then there were three. After two holes, Leishman had slipped and couldn’t recover, while Oosthuizen was hot on the heels of Johnson, who, quite simply was showing nerves of steel. It came down to the last.
With Leishman finished, Oosthuizen had the chance to capitalise on a missed put from Johnson which would have won it; the South African knowing, should he sink it, he would force another hole. As it was, the ball trickled narrowly wide, the margin between another chance and defeat, mere inches.
However, Johnson proved a worthy victor. Full of emotion, he addressed the adoring St Andrews crowd as his final act saying: “I’m humbled because of the names that are etched on this piece of metal. To have my name on the trophy is surreal.”
Paying tribute to his fellow competitors, including amateur winner and compatriot, Jordan Niebrugge, event organisers, his caddy, the crowd and more importantly his wife, Johnson graduated from St Andrews with honours, fulfilling a lifelong ambition.