Thursday 29 September 2016

Biblical verse helps Johnson prevail in Monday marathon

Published 21/07/2015 | 02:30

Zach Johnson reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green
Zach Johnson reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green

Zach Johnson was the marathon man of the 114th Open Championship as he claimed his second Major title after a three-man play-off with Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman at St Andrews yesterday.

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Johnson goes into the record books as only the fourth American to win the Open on the Old Course since Tony Lema in 1964.

The other members of that elite club are stellar names - Jack Nicklaus (1970 and '78), John Daly (1995) and Tiger Woods (2000 and '05), although Daly has made more headlines for his off-course trials and tribulations than his golf.

That said, it takes something special to win the Claret Jug at St Andrews.

Johnson, Masters winner in 2007, was fully aware of the special status that comes with winning in the Auld Grey Toon, even though he admits that history is not his specialty.

"I said it in '07, and I continue to say it now with the Open Championship: it's a feat to be invited and an honour to be invited to those tournaments," he said.

Hard

"To win at Augusta and to win the Open Championship at St Andrews, it's hard to put it into words, as a golfer, as an athlete, as a guy.

"I'm not a great historian, but I do know that this is the birthplace of a great game and a place that has fantastic fans. I'm humbled to win this championship."

He revealed how reciting religious verse helped him race to a birdie-birdie start at holes one and two in the play-off and close out with a par on his second visit of the day to the 18th after all three contenders had bogeyed the Road Hole.

"It's Psalms 24:17, and it's 'Be patient, wait for the Lord. Be courageous and brave. Yes, be patient, wait for the Lord.' Just little things that help along the way. Gets me down to my priorities," he said.

The 39-year-old, by his own admission, is not one of the game's poster boys. "I'm just a guy from Iowa that has been blessed with a talent," he said, though he is more than that.

The Open at St Andrews is added to the Masters won eight years ago. That takes some doing wherever you are from.

This was one of the longest Opens, as it went on for five days - only the second Monday finish in the championship's history.

Many came to St Andrews with strong credentials for joining the annals of victors.

Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, two perennial triers, once again edged themselves into the top realm of the leaderboard, only to fall away.

Jordan Spieth, the Major hat-trick aspirant, seemingly shot himself out of it with a four-putt on the eighth hole, but a phenomenal 60-foot birdie on the 16th, left him needing to finish par, par to book a place in the play-off.

But Spieth bogeyed the fearsome Road Hole and failed to make his birdie on 18, finishing with a 69, as did Jason Day, who joined him in a tied-fourth finish.

Padraig Harrington had a chance to win his fourth Major seven years after his last one, the PGA Championship.

Two behind the leaders at the start, he was motoring nicely at three under for his round, and 13 under for the tournament, when a lost ball on the sixth cost him a double-bogey.

Ultimately, 15-under par was the magic number that put Johnson, Leishman and Oosthuizen into the four-hole play-off on the first, second, 17th and 18th holes.

Sand

Leishman had made only one bad stoke all day, finding sand at the 16th green with his approach. The resultant bogey dropped him into the play-off zone and he never got going again.

Johnson and South Africa's Oosthuizen both birdied the first extra hole, while Australian Leishman three-putted.

Johnson birdied the second but all three bogeyed the monster that the Road Hole had become.

When Johnson tapped in for his par at the last it was all on Oosthuizen. There was to be no 2010 repeat. St Andrews might not have identified the most fancied runner but over a week of trying weather none could argue with the pedigree of the performer on the final day.

The most open championship in years was there to be won and Johnson raised his hand the highest.

Irish Independent

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