By Ron Patey
Zach Johnson can add a second major to his resume. The American captured the weather-delayed 144th Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews in a four-hole aggregate playoff with Marc Leishman of Australia and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.
Johnson and Oosthuizen struck first when they made birdies at the first playoff hole, while Leishman three-putted for bogey. The American put another birdie on the scoreboard at the second hole to move a shot clear of Oosthuizen and three ahead of the Aussie after they both recorded pars.
On the third playoff hole, Johnson yanked his approach shot and was short-sided left of the green. He followed by nipping his pitch effort past the flag and into greenside rough. Johnson recovered nicely with a crisp chip shot tight to the hole. After his tap-in putt settled in the bottom of the cup, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa native headed for the final playoff hole holding a one-shot lead.
At the fourth playoff hole, Johnson narrowly missed a 15-footer for birdie to claim The Open’s coveted Claret Jug outright. He then watched Oosthuizen’s birdie putt burn the edge of the cup, clinching his first major championship since winning The Masters in 2007.
Jordan Spieth’s spirited run at a third consecutive major came to an end. An Open Championship win to follow up his 2015 Masters and U.S. Open titles earlier would have made him the first person since golf legend and fellow Texan Ben Hogan to win those three tournaments in the same year. Spieth made a magnificent 50-odd footer for birdie at 16 to gain a share of the lead, but then shoved a birdie putt on No. 17, the treacherous Road Hole.
The 21-year-old couldn’t shake the disappointment of the miss, as his drive on 18 blew way left and well over onto the right side on the first fairway which runs alongside the home hole. Spieth’s last hope of another miracle was dashed after he spun his hole-high approach way too much, sliding it off the green into a gully.
Next On The Tee: RBC Canadian Open
Canada’s national championship returns to Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario for a record 27th time. Tim Clark of South Africa will be looking to become the tournament’s first back-to-back champ since Jim Furyk of the U.S. hoisted the trophy in 2006 and 2007. Furyk had a crack at a third in 2014, but Clark nudged him by one stroke to stymie the American veteran’s quest at Royal Montreal Golf Club. Big-time names teeing it up this week include Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes and Hunter Mahan, who led the 2013 tournament by two shots at the midway point but exited to be with his wife who was giving birth to their first child.
Canada’s Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, has withdrawn from the event. The country’s best bets to contend among its 14 representatives are Nick Taylor, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship in November, Graham DeLaet and David Hearn.
Glen Abbey Golf Club plays 7,273 yards long and is a par 72.
Favorites: Jason Day, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson
Players To Watch: Graham DeLaet, Scott Piercy, Nick Watney, J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.