Date: July 23, 2015
Author: Rob Grant

Leishman loses open to Zach Johnson in play-off

Victorian Marc Leishman came tantalisingly close to producing one of golf's greatest feel good stories when he charged into a play-off for the British Open at St Andrews, only to lose out to American Zach Johnson.

Just a few months after being told his wife Audrey had a five per cent chance of surviving a rare bacterial infection, the Warrnambool pro was poised to compete for the game's most coveted trophy as part of a four hole three-way play-off with Johnson and South African Louis Oosthuizen. 

He was immediately on the back foot with a bogey five at the first extra hole with Johnson and Oosthuizen both collecting birdies. In the end he finished three shots behind the American, who took his second major following his victory in the 2007 Masters.

Leishman's wife and two Oliver and Harvey had remained in their Virginia Beach home in the US.

Despite his loss, the 31-year-old said he had never played better.

"I've never put four really good rounds together like that," said Leishman, who banked a whopping $1.13m.

"I've probably putted better, I've probably driven it better, I've hit my irons better but put all together, that's probably the best week I've had."

Leishman took over the pace gained the lead at the 13th hole but dropped a shot when he bogeyed the 16th.

"That hole was disappointing," he said. "I actually didn't hit that bad a putt, it just didn't do what I thought it was going to do. I hit a really good bunker shot and I didn't finish it off." 

Leishman had fired rounds of 64-66 on the final two days to charge up the leaderboard and join Johnson and Oosthuizen at 15 under the card.

Jason Day, who had recovered from his vertigo spell at the recent US Open, fell just one shot short of the play-off to walk off the course 14 under par alongside American Jordan Spieth, who had been aiming for the third leg of a calendar year Grand Slam following his wins in the Masters and the US Open.

Adam Scott was also among the pre-tournament favourites and ended his bid five shots adrift in a share of 10th.

It was just three months ago that his moment at St Andrews was the farthest thing from Leishman's mind as Audrey lay in an induced coma after toxic shock syndrome began shutting down her organs in April. 

"I feel like I've always had a pretty good outlook on life and now it takes a lot more to worry me," Leishman said earlier in the week. "I don't get annoyed about little things that I cannot really help. When you hit a bad shot there's no real point getting frustrated about it.

"I feel like even if I do have a bad day I can still go home and hopefully give my wife a hug and cuddle my two boys."

Leishman, Scott and Day all had the chance to become the first Australian since Greg Norman in 1993 to win The Open and join Peter Thomson and the late Kel Nagle as the only Australians to have won it at St Andrews.

Scott had snared a share of the lead with six birdies in his first 10 holes but collapsed with five dropped shots in the final five holes – including a double bogey on the 18th.

"I'll be disappointed the way I played the last five holes for sure," Scott said.

"I could have done a lot better than that. Yeah, it's a shame not to get in there and finish with a shot, that's for sure, but maybe it was too much to ask today."

Day started the final round in a three-way share of the lead and missed a seven metre putt on the 18th to join the play-off while his playing partner Spieth also missed from a similar distance.

"I've been working very hard to try and accomplish my first major, and you know, it's a little frustrating with how it finished," Day said.

"But I've been in contention at major championships a lot now, and it just shows I'm doing the right things, and I can't look at it as a negative. I'm just a little frustrated because I just walked off the course about five minutes ago. Give it time so I can just sit down and look at what the positives were and move on from there and just try and get better."

Johnson said his victory was another childhood aim achieved.

“Dreams have been realised and goals accomplished,” he said. “It takes me back to when I turned professional. You could even go back further than that when I was playing as a youngster.

"These are the things you dream about. These are the things you’ve worked to get to.

“I’m humbled right now because of what’s in my lap and the names that are etched on this piece of metal. That is very special. It’s the who’s who in the game.”

Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open winner, said: “It’s never nice to lose a play-off.  I’ve had the experience in 2012 at Augusta. You feel like you’ve got a really good chance of winning. But I’ll take a lot out of this week. I love this place, I’ve said it a thousand times. I can’t wait for it to come back here again.”

Of the other Australians, Victorian Marcus Fraser was tied for 20th ahead of Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch (both T30), Geoff Ogilvy and John Senden (both T40), Greg Chalmers (T58) and Brett Rumford (T74).