Zach Johnson tends to do things the hard way and he did just that to clinch the 144th Open in dramatic fashion following a three-man play-off on Monday evening at St. Andrews. He may be lacking in inches and stature but the 39-year-old American is a gritty, gutsy character and he needed to display all his pluck to land his first Open at the play-off expense of defending St Andrews champion Louis Oosthuizen and Aussie Marc Leishman – the trio all finished on -15
Johnson, who signed off with a 66 after a handful of front nine birdies – coolly and calmly went about his final round business while many of his rivals around him were losing their composure and, as a result, made critical mistakes at critical times. The new champion largely went unnoticed and under the radar, something which he has done for most of his highly successful career previously highlighted by his 2007 US Masters victory. Johnson, a big Manchester United follower, didn’t take the easy route then either: despite laying up on all the par fives each day, he beat Tiger Woods, Rory Sabbatini and Retief Goosen by two, becoming the first player from outside the world’s top 50 to lift the title since the rankings began in 1986.
A tearful Johnson couldn’t believe what he had done and achieved: it was his 12th Open with his previous best effort being a modest tied sixth at Muirfield in 2013. Now the regular US Ryder Cupper is a double major champion and on top of the golfing world. He is one of the sweetest iron players around and his ability to hit a straight ball and keep it on the short stuff – he hit 94% of the fairways when it really mattered – stood him in great stead.
Johnson ended Jordan Spieth’s Grand Slam dream and Oosthuizen’s hopes of winning again at St. Andrews and although he’s not the high profile and marketable winner many would have liked, there’s no doubt at all he is a worthy and deserved victor. As for the Brits, it was a bit of a mixed bag but at the end of the day another year slips by without a home winner though Justin Rose and Danny Willett (-11) did well but had to settle for tied sixth alongside Sergio Garcia and top amateur, American prospect Jordan Niebrugge.