Most weeks there are a number of players slinking off into the night understanding they blew a chance to win a big golf championship. It is the little mistakes which do them in and The Old Course induces unique mistakes out of players and leaves them wondering where all the shots went. The double greens make three putting more common that it usually is on normal courses and the bunkers littered all over the fairways catch the poorly directed drives – but drives which would be on the fairways of an average tour course.
Jordan Spieth, in search of the third leg of the Grand Slam, was done in by putting clean off the eighth green from what was probably the 10th green, and taking three more from there for a double bogey.
He came back with some brilliant play but in the end he chose to play down the wrong fairway at the 17th, setting up a horrible angle into the green and making a bogey, which ended hopes of a Grand Slam.
He could still have made a birdie at the last but it was not to be for either him or partner Jason Day. The Queenslander didn’t make a bogey all round but only two birdies on this day was always going to be just on the light side of enough. Still, it was another great run at a major championship for one quickly moving up the scales of ‘best player never to have won a major’.
Adam Scott, forever freed of the tag of one who fails under the severest of pressure because of his Augusta heroics in 2013, made an absolute mess of the run in from the 14th. It may be the most difficult run of holes in the game when the wind is against but he flew long at the 14th into the back bunker and made five then followed it up by missing a putt so short on the 15th it was utterly unbelievable.
The new-year and the ban on the anchoring of the long putter cannot come quick enough because it will force his hand and make him putt conventionally. He finished up by whipping a drive over the fence at the 18th and making a miserable six. Scott has had great chances in the past four Opens and he is one who has driven off into the gloom with some dark thoughts.
He will have more chances, as will Day but there is surely some scarring there now?
For all the talk of Spieth, and he has unquestionably been both remarkable and brilliant, Louis Oosthuizen is the most beautiful player in the game. ‘A proper player’ is Geoff Ogilvy’s summation of the South African’s talents. He, like Scott, has his major championship but he has lost playoffs now at Augusta and The Open.
Mark Leishman was fantastic all weekend. He did 64 on Saturday and then 66 matching Ian Baker-Finch’s winning weekend scores at Birkdale in 1991. In the end though he missed from two metres at the 16th taking him from the lead at 16-under back to 15, which ultimately tied him with Oosthuizen and Zach Johnson.
Johnson is a short hitter by modern standards, but a straight one and a master of the pitching clubs. He won at Augusta in 2007 by laying back at all the par fives and wedging close enough to birdie most of them. At The Old Course there are any number of drive and pitch holes and the champion mastered them making threes at the 9th,10th, 12th and 18th holes and them the opening hole of the playoff.
Oosthuizen too made a three at the playoff opener and Johnson made another at the second. With a chance to catch up at the Road Hole the South African three-putted as the champion saved five with a single putt. Neither could do threes at the last and America has another Open Champion.
Leishman was terrific as were Day and Scott, but since Peter Thomson’s playoff win against Dave Thomas in 1958, Jack Newton(1975) Wayne Grady and Greg Norman (1989), Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby (2002) and now Leishman have fallen at extra holes in the Open.
There is surely no more painful way to lose the greatest championship in the game.