Johnson prevails in St Andrews epic

Zach Johnson has won the 144th Open Championship at St Andrews

Zach Johnson has won the 144th Open Championship after an enthralling final round and four-hole playoff at St Andrews. Here we tell the story of how the day unfolded.

2015 Open Review Video


At the start of play in today's final round of The Open Championship, with so many players within striking distance of the lead, there was speculation that someone could post a target that would give the leaders something to think about.

As the leaders prepared to go out, the chasing pack was growing in numbers. Luke Donald entered the fray, so too Ashley Chesters and Hideki Matsuyama. When the final two-ball of Paul Dunne and Louis Oosthuizen stood up on the 1st tee it was wide open, but the conditions had taken a turn for the worse – the rain falling and the breeze up.

Padraig Harrington came out of the blocks quickly with birdies on the first two holes, and Zach Johnson got off to a flyer with three birdies in the first five. Adam Scott birdied the 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th holes to get right up there and Sergio Garcia also made three birdies in the first five. Marc Leishman tore his way up the leaderboard and Anthony Wall was putting a good score together. Thing were building nicely.

Johnson kept up his early pace and reached the turn in 31 – alone at the top of the board at 14-under, he added another birdie at the 10th and one more at the 12th to get to 16-under the card.

Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Louis Oosthuizen were all in hot pursuit around the famous loop, Spieth recovering fantastically well from a double bogey at the eighth with back-to-back birdies.

It was all about jockeying for position, as the threat of the run for home loomed large. Playing back into the wind, the holes from the 13th onwards were proving difficult and it looked like it was going to be the man who held on best who would prevail.

Johnson bogeyed the 13th and 17th holes to drop back to 14-under-par, but he then holed an excellent birdie putt at the last to post a clubhouse target of 15-under-par.

Having birdied the 12th to reach 16-under-par, Leishman kept his ship steady through the difficult three holes from the 13th to the 15th, but he found the greenside bunker on the 16th and, despite a sublime escape shot, he was unable to hole the par putt and dropped back into a tie with Johnson. Leishman very nearly achieved an unlikely birdie on the 17th, almost holing a long putt from the very front of the green. But a tap-in par meant he was tied for the lead going down the last. He parred it to tie Johnson at 15-under.

That two-way tie became three when Jordan Spieth holed a near miraculous putt across the 16th green for a birdie three. He then came to the 17th and, after two decent shots and a pitch, he was left with a 10-foot putt for par. It drifted past the right edge. He was one behind again, needing a birdie to force a playoff.

Jason Day, who had been cruising along quietly, then made a fine up-and-down from short of the Road Hole green to keep his place at 14-under-par. He could also still make the playoff with a birdie.

Spieth’s second spun back into the Valley of Sin and Day’s approach flew beyond the pin. The young American was first up, with history on the line. He needed to hole out to keep his chances of the Grand Slam alive. It missed by only a couple of inches so Spieth came up one shot shy.

Next up was Day, from beyond the pin. He sized up the birdie putt and sent it on its way. He left it short and his disappointment was clear as he tapped in for a share of an eventual fourth place.

Meanwhile, Louis Oosthuizen had kept his hopes of victory afloat with a wonderful par-saving putt on the 17th. He too was 14-under with a chance of forcing his way into the playoff.

He blasted a long drive up the 18th leaving just 57 yards to the cup. He then played a higher, spinning shot that landed five feet above the hole and stopped almost dead. He faced a testing putt to make it a three-way playoff for the title, and he rolled it home comfortably to do just that.

Johnson, Leishman and Oosthuizen headed into a four-hole playoff over the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th holes.

Oosthuizen and Johnson fired in birdies at the 1st, while Leishman three-putted for five. On the second, Johnson moved one clear with a second straight three, as both Louis and Leishman made pars.

On the Road Hole all three men played solid drives but, while Leishman and Oosthuizen aimed sensibly to the front right of the green with their approaches, Johnson pulled his second into an awkward spot where he found the infamous Road bunker between his ball and the pin. His only option was to go straight at it, but he couldn’t keep his pitch on the green and his ball rolled down the bank over the putting surface. He played an excellent chip and got up-and-down from there for five. After Oosthuizen had failed to make par, Johnson took a one-shot lead into the 18th. Leishman dropped another and was effectively out of the equation.

Johnson failed to hole his birdie putt after two good shots into the green and that gave Oosthuizen a chance to keep the playoff going into sudden-death. But his birdie putt drifted left and Johnson was champion – his second Major victory after the US Masters of 2007.

In the contest for the Silver Medal, presented to leading amateur, Ollie Schniederjans of the USA set an early benchmark with a great closing round of 67. He finished the week on nine-under. Ashley Chesters of England matched that, but then Jordan Niebrugge (also from America,) beat them both with a final round of 70 and a four-round total of 11-under-par. He tied for sixth place and won the battle of the amateurs.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?