With a hard fought 66 on Monday — followed by a gutsy one-under par performance through four playoff holes — 39-year old Zach Johnson clinched his second career major, and first claret jug.
Johnson absolutely owned the first ten holes of the Old Course, posting 14 birdies in regulation plus two more in the four-hole playoff. He also topped off each round with a birdie on 18 — including a clutch 25-footer on the 72nd hole to earn a spot in the playoff — for a cumulative score of 20-under par on those 11 holes. Over the same stretch, runners-up Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen were both 13-under, while Grand-Slam-also-ran Jordan Spieth posted 16-under.
The pre-tournament talk was all about how long hitters like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson would simply overpower St. Andrews. In the end, it was Johnson — who ranked 60th among the 80 players who made the cut with an average drive of 289.88 yards — who tamed the Old Course.
The Iowa native managed 31 one-putts for the week, second best in the field. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was able to attack St. Andrews’ massive greens with a wedge in his hand 36 times over 72 holes. And even when he was off his mark, Johnson was just as deadly, getting up and down on 13 of the 17 greens he missed, also good for T-2 in the tourney.
Johnson’s opening round 66 got him off to a great start — and his 1:01 tee time meant that he had to do it in the teeth of the wind and rain. In fact, of the 17 players who posted a 68 or better in Round 1, Johnson was among just three who teed off after noon.
Johnson is the 14th player to claim both a Masters and a British Open title in their careers, but he’s one of only six players to win at Augusta and St. Andrews, joining Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods.
1 (really is the loneliest number!)
Jordan Spieth fell just one stroke short of the playoff on Monday, marking the third time that the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champ came up a shot shy in their quest for a trifecta. Arnold Palmer, who won the 1960 Masters and U.S. Open, finished a shot behind Kel Nagle at St. Andrews later that year, while back-to-back major winner Jack Nicklaus fell to Lee Trevino by a stroke in the 1972 Open Championship at Muirfield.