American Zach Johnson held off Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a three-man playoff to decide the 144th British Open on Monday at St. Andrews in Scotland. The 39-year-old claimed the second major of his career and first since the 2007 Masters after starting the day amidst a seven-man tie for sixth, and forcing the playoff with a six-under final round complete with eight birdies.
Taking on the first, second, 17th, and 18th in the four-hole aggregate playoff, Johnson nailed two straight birdies to start but misfired on his drive on No. 17 and wound up behind the massive bunker before the green. Johnson then overshot and landed in the rough behind the green, but nearly chipped in to save par before taking the bogey on a putt within two feet.
Johnson nailed his approach on No. 18 by hitting just far enough onto the green to avoid the hill, and avoided a second playoff despite missing birdie on the final hole.
Oosthuizen had the chance to tie twice, including on the final hole for second playoff. His first-putt on the No. 17 kissed the grass before the cup and rolled just left, missing a huge opportunity before the final hole. His approach on No. 18 landed on the green, but rolled back down a treacherous hill and Oosthuizen couldn't recover despite coming inches away from a birdie on his next shot. Oosthuizen could have forced a second playoff but misfired on his putt for birdie on No. 18.
Heading into No. 18, where Johnson had shot 4-under throughout the week, Leishman had struggled with a bogey on the first and third playoff holes and stood little chance. Leishman finished in third after a six-under final round, and two-over in the playoff.
Once again showing the patience and maturity of a golfer twice his age at The Old Course, 21-year-old American Jordan Spieth hoped to become the second player in history to win the first three major titles in a single year, a feat only accomplish by legend Ben Hogan in 1953.
But despite knocking down 24 birdies, by far the most in the tournament, Spieth’s bogey on the par-four No. 17 and his approach to the green on No. 18 rolling back, he just missed the playoff.
After starting the day tied for fourth, Spieth moved up to third and eventually tied for the lead with a stellar 45-foot putt on the 16th hole to put pressure on Johnson and Leishman. However, he’d bogey No. 17 and his par on the final hole was enough to get into the playoff.
Spieth originally fell behind by three strokes after a 4-putt double-bogey on the eighth hole, but rallied with two consecutive birdies on the next two holes. He finished three-under par with six birdies, a bogey and double-bogey in the final round for a fourth-place tie.
Spieth’s partner for the day, Australia’s Jason Day, was also in contention for the playoff until the final hole. And though he played error-free throughout the final round, Day couldn’t muster more than his two birdies on the fifth and sixth holes.
Leishman looked set to capture his first major title and avoid the playoff, but his short game failed him on the back nine. Holding at 15-under on the final hole, Leishman set himself up for a birdie but his putt cut left and he managed to par.
Leishman’s bogey on the 16th, resulting from a missed straight-on putt that tilted just left of the cup, opened up the top of the already crowded leaderboard and drew Johnson back into contention with his final round already on the books.
Oosthuizen and Day began the last round as the leaders, but Oosthuizen’s bogeys on the eight and 13th holes pulled him down the leaderboard.
Day opted to putt over several bunkers on the 17th hole rather than chip, and nestled his ball a few feet away for his third birdie on the day to move force a four-way tie for first.
Here’ Spieth’s incredible putt on the 16th hole.
— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) July 20, 2015
Here's Johnson's putt on No. 18 during his final round to get to 15-under before the playoff.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2015
Here's Oosthuizen's putt that would've forced a second playoff.