Normal guy from Iowa delivers clutch moments at British Open
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.