Modest Zach Johnson toasted a “humbling and surreal” victory after the American Ryder Cup star emerged triumphant from a marathon Open Championship at St Andrews last night.
Johnson saw off 2010 winner Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman in a four-hole play-off, after Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth narrowly missed out on the third leg of a grand slam.
The 39-year-old matched his opening-round 66 to tie with Oosthuizen and Leishman on 15 under par – one better than Spieth and perennial Major nearly man Jason Day – on a weather-delayed final day.
Former Masters champion Johnson quickly took charge of the play-off by birdying the first and second holes, and the Claret Jug was assured when Oosthuizen ran a birdie attempt desperately close on 18.
“It sounds surreal. The tone to it is very humbling. But I feel blessed to be the champion and honoured to be part of the history of this game, to don my name on that trophy, especially with the names before. Humbling and surreal are the words that come to my mind,” he said.
“It has been a week of patience, perseverance, trust, certainly a week of courage and bravery. I can’t play any better than I did. I had maybe a lull there, I think on Friday and Saturday, but nothing significant, and I just stayed in it, stayed in it, stayed in it and waited for the opportunities.”
Of Oosthuizen, whose sole Major win came at St Andrews five years ago, world No25 Johnson added: “I don’t like seeing it end on a miss. Louis is a friend, buddy and a tremendous competitor.”
Spieth’s bogey at 17 cost him a play-off and ended his hopes of becoming only the second man to win the year’s first three Majors.
Twice runner-up Sergio Garcia briefly threatened before three bogeys in six holes on the back nine left him on 11 under par and tied for sixth with English pair Justin Rose and Danny Willett, and the leading amateur, American Jordan Niebrugge.
Australian Adam Scott was another whose challenge wilted late on, with five shots dropped on the last five holes, as did dual winner Padraig Harrington, who had five birdies, four bogeys and two double bogeys in a 75. They finished tied for 10th and 20th respectively.
South African Oosthuizen, 32, holed a birdie at the 72nd hole to join Leishman and Johnson in a play-off, and refused to rue previous missed putts.
“I love this course,” he said. “I played well, did well to get into the play-off. It was a really tough back nine. I made good putts; I’m not going to look back at the misses on 17 and 18. Well done to Zach. The final putt was a tough little shot and I misread it.”