Zach Johnson won The Open Championship at St. Andrews on Monday after Louis Oosthuizen’s 12-foot birdie putt touched the left side of the cup as it passed by.
Oosthuizen had won The Open Championship in 2010, the last time it was played at St. Andrews.
Johnson rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would eventually get him into a three-man playoff with Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.
It was the first British Open playoff since Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson at Turnberry in 2009, and the first involving more than two players since 2002 at Muirfield.
Johnson described himself ‘as a mess’ to ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi in an interview just off the 18th green.
“I’m grateful. I’m humbled. I’m honored,” Johnson said. “This is the birthplace of the game, and that jug means so much in sports.”
Many had come to St. Andrews to watch Jordan Spieth make history by becoming the first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the first three majors of the year.
After missing an 8-foot putt on the tough 17th and settling for bogey, Spieth needed a birdie on the closing hole to join the playoff. Hitting his drive far left on the wide 18th fairway, Spieth had to get up and down from 90 yards to join the playoff.
Spieth would later say he picked the wrong wedge to play the shot as his approach rolled back off the edge short of the green. His birdie attempt up the slope kept to the left just inches away from the hole and inches away from history.
So the man of the hour was Johnson, who delivered an eloquent speech to the gallery as he held the Claret Jug and expressed what the victory meant to him on a “beautiful Scottish summer day.”
“Dreams have been realized,” Johnson said. “I’m honored to be your Open Champion and your champion golfer of the year.”
At a most holy golf course, St. Andrews, Johnson said he felt a peace that surpassed all understanding.
“I had a peace about me all day,” Johnson told the congregation of fans who had managed to make it back to attend the Monday finish.
“It was divine. I thank the Lord for giving me that peace and courage and bravery.”
He thanked his wife for her many prayers, and for her support and belief. He thanked Damon Green, his caddie, saying golf is a team sport, and Damon is his “right hand man.”
Damon was interviewed afterwards and told the story that during tournaments Johnson will often times ask him (Damon) to put his hand on his (Johnson’s) heart.
“Most tournaments,” Damon recalled. “Zach’s heart is racing so fast, boom, boom, boom. But today, it was calm. I could hardly feel it.”
At the press conference, Johnson gave his perspective on winning The Open Championship.
“I don’t want to make this bigger than it should be,” Johnson said. “This isn’t going to define me or my career. Least, I hope it doesn’t. As a pro golfer, I relish this, I’m humbled by this, but my legacy is my kids, my family.”
On a beautiful Scottish summer day, American Zach Johnson had a pleasant walk along the fairways of St. Andrews quoting scripture, hitting golf balls, and feeling a peace that surpasses all understanding.