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American Zach Johnson wins British Open playoff

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- American Zach Johnson claimed the second major triumph of his career after winning a four-hole playoff at the end of a captivating, cliffhanger of a final round in the British Open on Monday.

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Zach Johnson of the U.S. watches his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the British Open golf championship on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland on Monday. (Reuters / Phil Noble)

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - American Zach Johnson claimed the second major triumph of his career after winning a four-hole playoff at the end of a captivating, cliffhanger of a final round in the British Open on Monday.
In an Open that never seemed to want to end, the 39-year-old surged through the field with a closing 66 before overcoming South African Louis Oosthuizen (69) and Australian Marc Leishman (66) in extra holes.
“I feel blessed to be the champion and honored to be part of the history of this game,” Johnson said after a round played in a damp and heavy atmosphere but, more importantly for the players, in light winds. “It has been a week of patience, courage and trust. I can’t play any better than I did. I just stayed in it, waited for the opportunities and made a few putts.”
Johnson, who won the Masters in 2007, took a vice-like grip on the playoff by ramming in birdie putts of 12 and 18 feet at the first two holes and could afford the luxury of taking a bogey at the 17th before a par at the 18th sealed victory.
Oosthuizen, the winner of the British Open when it was last played at St. Andrews in 2010, was even par for the extra holes while Leishman effectively played himself out of it when he three-putted the first. He ended 2 over.
Johnson wiped tears from his eyes before hugging his wife as he walked off the 18th green to pick up the coveted Claret Jug and a first prize of $1.79 million.
“This isn’t going to define me or my career, at least I hope it doesn’t,” the down-to-earth Johnson told reporters. “It’s not my legacy.
“Granted, as a professional athlete and as a golfer I’m going to relish this, I’m going to savor this. I’m humbled by this but my legacy should be my kids, my family, that kind of thing. I realize it’s just a game. I’m just a guy from Iowa that has been blessed with a talent and this game provides great opportunity.”
One of the first to congratulate Johnson was fellow American Jordan Spieth who failed to make the playoff by one stroke after a day of fluctuating fortunes.
Spieth, 21, bidding to become the first player since fellow Texan Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the opening three majors of the year, finished with a 3-under 69 for a 14-under 274 total.
Johnson, Leishman and Oosthuizen ended the regulation 72 holes at 15 under.
Spieth’s chances were effectively wrecked when he took four putts from 100 feet to double bogey the eighth and he eventually settled for a share of fourth place with Australian Jason Day (70).
“I made a mental mistake,” Spieth said. “If you make a double bogey it’s a very difficult climb back. I hit my first putt off the green and there’s absolutely no reason to do that.”
Irish amateur Paul Dunne, who went into the final round of golf’s oldest major in a tie for the lead, slumped to a closing 78 and ended in a share of 30th position.
Earlier, Johnson came sprinting out of the blocks with a swashbuckling run of seven birdies in the opening 12 holes.
He dropped strokes at the 13th and 17th, completely mis-hitting his second shot at the notorious ‘Road Hole’ after his feet slipped in the wet rough.
Johnson bounced straight back by gently caressing a 35-foot birdie putt into the cup on the 72nd green, letting out a roar of delight as the ball disappeared into the hole before squatting down and producing a theatrical fist pump.
Leishman then missed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 18th that would have given him outright victory but had the consolation of knowing his last two rounds of 64 and 66 tied the record Open low for the closing 36 holes.
Oosthuizen appeared to be out of contention until he grittily holed a 15-foot par-saving effort at the 17th and chipped close at the 18th before rolling in his birdie putt to join Johnson and Leishman in the playoff.
American Jordan Niebrugge finished as the leading amateur, in a tie for sixth spot at 277 with the British duo of Justin Rose and Danny Willett and Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
It was only the second time the championship had finished on a Monday after heavy rain and strong winds caused havoc earlier in the tournament.

The 144th British Open Championship

St. Andrews, Scotland
Final
(x-won on 4th playoff hole)
x-Zach Johnson    66-71-70-66-273    (-15)
Marc Leishman    70-73-64-66-273    (-15)
Louis Oosthuizen    67-70-67-69-273    (-15)
Jason Day    66-71-67-70-274    (-14)
Jordan Spieth    67-72-66-69-274    (-14)
Sergio Garcia    70-69-68-70-277    (-11)
Jordan Niebrugge    67-73-67-70-277    (-11)
Justin Rose    71-68-68-70-277    (-11)
Danny Willett    66-69-72-70-277    (-11)
Brooks Koepka    71-70-69-68-278    (-10)
Adam Scott    70-67-70-71-278    (-10)
Ashley Chesters    71-72-67-69-279    (-9)
Luke Donald    68-70-73-68-279    (-9)
Martin Kaymer    71-70-70-68-279    (-9)
Ollie Schniederjans    70-72-70-67-279    (-9)
Brendon Todd    71-73-69-66-279    (-9)
Anthony Wall    70-71-68-70-279    (-9)
Hideki Matsuyama    72-66-71-71-280    (-8)
Robert Streb    66-71-70-73-280    (-8)
Stewart Cink    70-71-68-72-281    (-7)
Marcus Fraser    74-69-68-70-281    (-7)
Retief Goosen    66-72-69-74-281    (-7)
Branden Grace    69-72-73-67-281    (-7)
Padraig Harrington    72-69-65-75-281    (-7)
Russell Henley    74-66-72-69-281    (-7)
Phil Mickelson    70-72-70-69-281    (-7)
James Morrison    71-71-70-69-281    (-7)
Greg Owen    68-73-71-69-281    (-7)
Patrick Reed    72-70-67-72-281    (-7)
Steven Bowditch    70-69-69-74-282    (-6)
Paul Dunne    69-69-66-78-282    (-6)
Rickie Fowler    72-71-66-73-282    (-6)
Jim Furyk    73-71-66-72-282    (-6)
Billy Horschel    73-71-71-67-282    (-6)
Matt Jones    68-73-69-72-282    (-6)
Anirban Lahiri    69-70-71-72-282    (-6)
Ryan Palmer    71-71-67-73-282    (-6)
Andy Sullivan    72-71-68-71-282    (-6)
Jimmy Walker    72-68-71-71-282    (-6)
Scott Arnold    71-73-73-66-283    (-5)
Rafael Cabrera Bello    71-73-68-71-283    (-5)
Paul Lawrie    66-70-74-73-283    (-5)
Francesco Molinari    72-71-73-67-283    (-5)
Geoff Ogilvy    71-68-72-72-283    (-5)
John Senden    72-72-68-71-283    (-5)
Webb Simpson    70-70-71-72-283    (-5)
Henrik Stenson    73-70-71-69-283    (-5)
Marc Warren    68-69-72-74-283    (-5)
Jamie Donaldson    72-71-71-70-284    (-4)
David Duval    72-72-67-73-284    (-4)
Ryan Fox    72-69-76-67-284    (-4)
David Howell    68-73-73-70-284    (-4)
Dustin Johnson    65-69-75-75-284    (-4)
Hunter Mahan    72-72-67-73-284    (-4)
Graeme McDowell    72-72-70-70-284    (-4)
Eddie Pepperell    72-70-66-76-284    (-4)
Lee Westwood    71-73-69-71-284    (-4)
Greg Chalmers    70-71-69-75-285    (-3)
Jason Dufner    73-71-67-74-285    (-3)
Matt Kuchar    71-73-70-71-285    (-3)
David Lipsky    73-69-70-73-285    (-3)
Kevin Na    67-75-70-73-285    (-3)
Cameron Tringale    71-71-73-70-285    (-3)
Gary Woodland    72-70-71-72-285    (-3)
Ernie Els    71-73-69-73-286    (-2)
Thongchai Jaidee    72-71-70-73-286    (-2)
Romain Langasque    69-72-71-74-286    (-2)
Graham DeLaet    71-73-68-75-287    (-1)
Harris English    71-72-69-75-287    (-1)
Ross Fisher    71-73-72-71-287    (-1)
Richard Ramsay    72-71-70-74-287    (-1)
Charl Schwartzel    67-72-69-79-287    (-1)
Bernd Wiesberger    72-72-71-72-287    (-1)
Paul Casey    70-71-75-72-288    (E)
David Lingmerth    69-72-70-77-288    (E)
Ben Martin    74-70-67-77-288    (E)
Brett Rumford    71-71-71-75-288    (E)
Bernhard Langer    74-70-73-72-289    (+1)
Mark O’Meara    72-72-71-74-289    (+1)
Thomas Aiken    75-69-72-74-290    (+2)

1879956+2015-07-20T165506Z_1734502170_LR2EB7K1AZJQA_RTRMADP_3_GOLF-OPEN.jpg
Zach Johnson of the U.S. reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the British Open golf championship in St. Andrews, Scotland on Monday. (Reuters / Russell Cheyne)

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