Monday, July 20, 2015

Zach Johnson wins three-way play-off, then 

pays tribute to Jordan Spieth
An emotional Zach Johnson defeated Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a play-off for The Open Championship to claim his second Major title.
Johnson is pictured with the Claret Jug by courtesy of Getty Images(c).
While it was ecstasy for 39-year-old American Johnson, his compatriot Jordan Spieth agonisingly failed to keep his Grand Slam dream alive.
Spieth needed a birdie on the 18th hole at St Andrews to join Johnson and Leishman on 15 under par 273 at the end of 72 holes, but saw his approach spin back off the green into the Valley of Sin and he narrowly missed the birdie attempt from there.
Johnson had set the clubhouse target after a closing 66 that was matched 40 minutes later by Australian Leishman, whose total of 130 for the third and fourth rounds - he carded a flawless 64 on Sunday - equalled the lowest 36-hole total in Major history.
Oosthuizen, who won The 2010 Open at St Andrews, still had two holes to play and after a crucial par save on the 17th, the South African birdied the last from five feet to make it a three-way aggregate play-off on the second Monday finish in Open history.
In the play-off, Johnson and Oosthuizen both birdied the first as Leishman three-putted from long range and Johnson edged ahead with another birdie on the second.
All three players bogeyed the 17th and Oosthuizen missed from 12 feet for birdie on the 18th to force sudden death, leaving Johnson to lift the Claret Jug, eight years after victory in the Masters Tournament

"I feel blessed to be the champion," said the 39 year old, who fought back tears after the win and was quickly congratulated by Spieth, eight days after finishing a shot behind his Ryder Cup team-mate in the John Deere Classic.
"I feel honoured to be part of the history of this game and to don my name on that trophy, especially with the names before me. Humbling and surreal are two words that come to mind. I am fairly speechless right now.

"I can't play any better than what I did. I had a lull on Friday and Saturday but nothing significant, but stayed in it and waited for the opportunities and made a few."
Johnson began the final round three shots behind leaders Oosthuizen, Jason Day and Irish amateur Paul Dunne, but birdies on the second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth took him to the turn in 31.
Australia's Adam Scott matched that front nine and the pair also birdied the tenth, but as Scott's challenge collapsed on the back nine, his compatriot Leishman moved to the front.
Leishman, who had also covered the front nine in 31 and birdied the tenth and 12th, briefly held a two-shot lead when Johnson bogeyed the 17th, his right foot slipping on his second shot as a rain shower passed through.
But as Johnson rolled in a long birdie putt on the 18th, Leishman was failing to get up and down from a bunker on the 16th and the 31 year old from Warrnambool could not find a decisive birdie of his own on the last.
Spieth's chances of a third consecutive Major victory looked to have disappeared after he four-putted the eighth - sending his first putt off the green - to fall three behind, but the 21 year old birdied the ninth and tenth and holed from 50 feet on the 16th for another to tie the lead.
Johnson, preparing for a possible play-off on the practice ground, heard the roar and checked his phone to confirm what had happened but it was then Spieth's turn to bogey the 17th after mishitting his approach and coming up well short of the green.
The Masters and US Open winner pulled his drive on the 18th near the grandstands on the right-hand side of the first fairway and had to back off his second shot due to noise from spectators taking pictures.
And after regaining his composure the World Number Two - who would have overtaken the absent Rory McIlroy in the rankings with a victory - saw his approach spin back off the green into the Valley of Sin, from where Costantino Rocca famously holed 20 years ago to get into a play-off with John Daly.
However, this time there were no heroics and the birdie attempt slipped just past the hole, while playing partner Day left his birdie attempt to also get into the play-off inches short.
"I can't describe the magnitude as to what he (Spieth) was going through because I've never been in that position certainly," added Johnson, who moves from 25th to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. 
"We haven't really seen that with the exception of Tiger.
"Truthfully he (Spieth) could be sitting here. But to have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to give me best wishes speaks volumes as to what he is. 
"He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now, he's a better person than he is a golfer."
Johnson won the richest Open on record - £6.5million of a prizefund. He earned £1,150,000 and Oosthizen and Leishman, offically joint runners-up, picked up £536,500 each.



Former Masters champion Adam Scott relived his Open nightmare from three years ago after collapsing over the final five holes at St Andrews.
The Australian was tied for the lead at the 144th Open midway through the back nine during the final round, but bogeyed the 614-yard 14th and then missed from a foot for par at the next.
He compounded matters by bogeying the 17th and then hitting his drive at the last - the widest fairway on the course - out of bounds for a double-bogey 6 to produce a finish reminiscent of his 2012 capitulation. He completed the back nine in 40 shots.
In 2012 at Royal Lytham, Scott reached the 14th with a four-shot lead, but bogeyed his last four holes to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.
"It's hard to digest it all at the moment," said the visibly shocked 34-year-old, who broke his major drought by winning the green jacket in 2013.
"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.
"Fourteen was my poorest shot I hit today and it cost me a bogey. That wasn't the end of the world but to miss a really short putt on the next, I don't really have an explanation for that.
"I just went up to tap it in from a foot and it lipped out. It is just one of those stupid things that happens and that really put me in a tough position to where finishing with a handful of threes was unlikely on a day like today.
"I'm disappointed the way I played the last five holes for sure. I could have done a lot better than that.
"It's a shame not to get in there and finish with a shot (at winning) but maybe it was too much to ask."



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