During five days of exceptionally low scoring and with enforced delays due to the varying nature of a Scottish summer, American Zach Johnson eventually won the British Open Golf title at St Andrews after claiming victory in three-way four hole playoff with Australian Marc Leishman and South African Louis Oosthuizen. Johnson birdied the first two of the four extra holes and was never overhauled thereafter, but during the prior regulation 72 holes, there were so many contenders threatening to win the tournament, that a playoff seemed inevitable.
The organisers had been forced to extend the tournament into a fifth day with an early Friday morning deluge deeming the course unplayable for several hours and then play was delayed until late afternoon on Saturday due to the prevailing strong winds on the Scottish east coast. As the players assembled for the final round on Monday, Paul Dunne, Jason Day and Oosthuizen led the field on 12 under par but there were another 14 challengers within 4 shots of the lead promising an engrossing finale to the tournament.
Accompanied by weather more akin to late autumn, the leaders then tackled the St Andrews course and the low scoring continued with birdies become the norm. Some golfing experts would argue that the course was too easy for a championship event with very wide fairways and some enormous greens sharing the end-point of two separate holes. Several of the flatter greens also offered the opportunity for relatively simple putting whereas the bunkers were rarely visited unlike in other major tournaments.
Johnson, Leishman, and Adam Scott were claiming their fair share of birdies on the front nine holes alongside steady scoring by Day, Oosthuizen and Jordan Spieth so much so that the leaderboard became seriously congested with the more difficult back nine holes expected to prove crucial.
For Spieth, it was the eighth hole which thwarted his ambitions of winning three successive majors and a potential grand slam this season. He managed to putt his ball off that vast green and then needed three further putting efforts to claim an unwelcome double bogey. Although he birdied the next two holes, a one over par at 17 was also costly and he finished a shot adrift of the three leaders who tied at 15 under par.
A bogey by Leishman at 16 also deprived him of the outright lead as both Johnson and Oosthuizen birdied the final hole to ensure the three-way playoff at the finish.
Johnson’s eventual victory ended an eight year wait for another major triumph after his success in 2007 US Masters and that is a surprise given his consistent form during the intervening period. Apart from a third position in the 2010 US PGA championship, he has never really threatened to win a major since that Master victory, yet has featured in the last three Ryder Cups for the United States.
After the relatively youthful Spieth and Rory McIlroy won the previous four majors, Johnson has also demonstrated that at 39 years of age, the more experienced golfers can still prevail at the highest level.