<image="1" align="left" />
Marc Leishman came closest, but ultimately there was heartbreak for three Australians as well as potential Grand Slammer Jordan Spieth at the Open Championship today.
Zach Johnson, the bulldog American, won the Open in a four-hole playoff over Leishman and South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen after bolting around the Old Course at St Andrews in a final-round 66.
Leishman, 31, had to be content with his best finish in a major, joint runner-up, after closing with a brilliant 66. Queenslander Jason Day had a six-metre putt to join the playoff at the 18th but left it short, leaving him tied-fourth — his ninth top-10 finish in a major.
But even more devastated was Adam Scott, who held a share of the lead after a brilliant front nine of 31 but who collapsed on the final five holes, closing bogey-bogey-par-bogey-double bogey. Scott still had a chance if he could birdie the 18th, but hit his tee shot out of bounds to the right, and took a double bogey six to finish tied-10th, sadly aping his capitulation at Royal Lytham in 2012 in the Open.
Spieth had a share of the lead through 16 holes on the final day and was on track to win a third consecutive major to give himself a chance of winning the fabled Grand Slam. But he bogeyed the 17th and then spun his approach to the 18th back into the Valley of Sin, and fell just one shot short of the playoff.
Leishman, the man from Warrnambool in south-western Victoria had the lead by a shot with just three holes remaining of regulation play, having played superbly. His one mistake was to tug his second shot into a pot bunker at the par-four 16th, where he missed his short par putt and dropped back into a share of the lead with Johnson, who had already posted his total of 15-under par.
The Victorian made a safe par at the Road Hole, the par-four 17th, then hit his wedge shot on to the green at the 18th hole giving himself a chance for the win. His putt from five metres stayed on the high side of the hole and he tapped in for par.
Soon afterward Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, joined Johnson and Leishman when he hit a gorgeous short iron shot to just more than a metre at the 18th hole and rolled in the birdie putt.
The playoff was dominated by Johnson, who immediately rolled in birdie putts at the first and second holes from mid-range, mimicking the long one that he had made for birdie in the 72nd hole of regulation play. Give him a chance and he will seize it.
Leishman had waited around for some time and this time he was a little off, suffering a cruel blow at the wide first fairway when his tee shot trickled into a divot. From there, he had to be safe with his wedge shot and make sure he cleared the Swilkan Burn. Three putts later he had bogeyed and he also three-putted the third playoff hole, the Road Hole, to extinguish any chance he had. He finished two-over par in the playoff but will still be given a share of second place, earning around $1 million prizemoney.
The world No. 61 has again shown he has major championship quality, with a tied-fifth in the 2014 Open and tied-fourth at the 2013 Masters tournament to show for it. The surprise, really, is that he does not win more.
It was Johnson's day, his second major triumph to go with the green jacket he won at Augusta in 2007. A shot up on Oosthuizen going down the fourth playoff hole, he missed with a 3.5 metre putt to win, leaving the South African with a chance to birdie and take it to another hole. But Oosthuizen's putt from three metres lipped out on the high side, and Johnson burst into tears with his wife, Kim, beside the 18th green and heard his name mentioned as an Open champion at St Andrews.
"It sounds beautiful, it still sounds extremely surreal,'' he said. "It sounds, the tone to it is very humbling. But I feel blessed to be the champion and I feel extremely honoured to be a part of this history, this game. To don my name on that trophy, especially with the names before me is … it's humbling and surreal are the two words that come to me.''
Spieth, who carried the pressure of the Grand Slam with him this week, was philosophical after a round that featured a calamitous four-putt at the eighth hole. "Going forward this doesn't change anything, and I'm looking forward to the PGA Championship,'' he said.
As for Scott, it was another body blow along similar lines to his Lytham disaster. "I'll be disappointed the way I played the last five holes for sure,'' he said. "I could have done a lot better than that."
-15 Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen (xx won in four-hole playoff)
-14 Jordan Spieth, Jason Day
-11 Danny Willett, Justin Rose, Jordan Niebrugge (am), Sergio Garcia
-10 Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka
-7 Marcus Fraser
-6 Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch
-5 Geoff Ogilvy, Scott Arnold, John Senden
-3 Greg Chalmers
Even Brett Rumford
Missed cut Scott Hend, Rod Pampling, Scott Strange
Johnson: birdie, birdie, bogey, par = one-under
Oosthuizen: birdie, par, bogey, par = even
Leishman: bogey, par, bogey, par = two-over
<image="2" align="left" />