Play­off vic­tory

Nor­mal guy from Iowa de­liv­ers clutch mo­ments at Bri­tish Open

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Zach John­son added a claret jug to his green jacket Mon­day by win­ning the Bri­tish Open.

Jor­dan Spi­eth’s spir­ited bid for a Grand Slam was stopped Mon­day by Zach John­son, who is no longer just a nor­mal guy from Iowa.

Not with a claret jug to go with that green jacket.

John­son cap­tured his sec­ond ma­jor – this one at the home of golf – win­ning the Bri­tish Open in a play­off over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leish­man that capped off five wild days at St. An­drews and a sus­pense-filled fi­nal round.

Most eyes were on 21-year-old Spi­eth. No one ever came closer to the third leg of the Grand Slam.

Spi­eth fought back from tak­ing four putts for a dou­ble bo­gey on No. 8 with back-to-back birdies.

He rolled in a 50-foot birdie putt for a share of the lead with two holes to play.

Af­ter miss­ing an eight-foot par putt on the 17th hole, he needed a birdie on the clos­ing hole to join the play­off.

“Up and down for a play­off,” was the last thing Spi­eth said to cad­die Michael Greller from about 90 yards away.

It was too far right and rolled to the edge of the Val­ley of Sin short of the green, and his birdie at­tempt up the slope stayed inches left of the cup.

“We gave it a great ef­fort,” Spi­eth said.

He joined Arnold Palmer, Jack Nick­laus and Tiger Woods – the three big­gest names in golf dur­ing the last half-cen­tury – as the only play­ers to cap­ture the Mas­ters and U.S. Open, only to come up short in a quest for the holy grail in golf – all four pro­fes­sional ma­jors in the same year.

John­son won the Mas­ters in 2007 and de­scribed him­self as just a nor­mal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Not any­more. The 39-year-old John­son now has two ma­jors among his 12 PGA Tour vic­to­ries, an as­tound­ing record and an ex­am­ple that a good wedge game and put­ter can still go a long way in this era of the long ball. John­son was in tears when he was in­ter­viewed off the green, and he cra­dled the jug af­ter his ac­cep­tance speech.

“I’m grate­ful. I’m hum­bled. I’m hon­oured,” John­son said. “This is the birthplace of the game, and that jug means so much in sports.”

On a tense af­ter­noon of shad­ows and showers on the Old Course, John­son closed with a 6un­der 66 by hol­ing a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole in reg­u­la­tion, and cad­die Damon Green strut­ted and flapped his arms in his cel­e­bra­tory chicken dance.

John­son was the first to post at 15-un­der 273 with his 30-foot birdie putt.

Leish­man, who con­sid­ered giv­ing up golf in April when his wife nearly died of a rare res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness, made one bad swing in the clos­ing holes that cost him a bo­gey on the 16th hole to fall into a share of the lead with John­son.

He had a birdie putt for the win that stayed wide left.

Af­ter Spi­eth had to set­tle for par and a 69 to tie for fourth, Oosthuizen made a 10-foot par putt on the Road Hole at No. 17 to stay one shot be­hind, and he de­liv­ered a clutch mo­ment of his own with a wedge to five feet for birdie and a 69 to join the play­off.

It was the first Bri­tish Open play­off since Stewart Cink beat Tom Wat­son at Turn­berry in 2009, and the first in­volv­ing more than two play­ers since 2002 at Muir­field, the year Woods failed in his bid for the third leg of the slam.


Zach John­son kisses his wife Kim Bar­clay af­ter win­ning a play­off in the fi­nal round of the Bri­tish Open Golf Cham­pi­onship on Mon­day.

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