Zach Johnson won the British Open on Tuesday morning (local time), holding off Australia’s Marc Leishman and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in a dramatic four-hole play-off at St Andrews.
The American won the oldest major in golf in a play-off after he, Leishman and 2010 British Open champion Oosthuizen all finished their four rounds of regulation play at 15 under.
It is Johnson’s second major triumph after his 2007 success at the US Masters.
“It sounds beautiful, it still sounds extremely surreal, it’s very humbling,” said Johnson after a round played in a damp and heavy atmosphere but, more importantly for the players, in light winds.
“I feel blessed to be the champion and honoured to be part of the history of this game.
“To don my name on that trophy … humbling and surreal are the two words that come to my mind.
“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.”
After a nerve-jangling final afternoon at the weather-hit tournament, Leishman had a 20-foot birdie putt to win his first major event at the 18th but his attempt narrowly missed as he finished with a 6-under 66.
It proved to be a day of Australian heartache as Jason Day finished one shot short of the leaders – alongside in-form Jordan Spieth – while Adam Scott made a terrific charge towards the top before crashing spectacularly on the back nine.
Johnson had already finished before Leishman’s near miss, having sunk a long birdie putt on the 18th for his 66.
Oosthuizen saved par superbly at the 17th before coolly holing a four-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
The play-off, decided on aggregate scores, went down the first, second, 17th and 18th holes, and Leishman’s tilt already looked doomed when his opening shot ended up in a divot as he bogeyed the first hole, while his two rivals produced birdies.
Johnson took the lead with another birdie on the second as Oosthuizen and Leishman made par, before a reprieve came for the American on the 17th hole as all three players bogeyed.
That bogey made Leishman effectively a spectator for the final hole on the 18th, which he parred, meaning he would finish the tournament officially in third place, an improvement from fifth place in 2014.
Johnson had to two-putt for par on the 18th, giving Oosthuizen a birdie chance to level the play-off, but the South African’s putt could only skirt the left cusp of the hole to give Johnson the championship.
The trio – and Spieth and Day, who finished tied for fourth – established a significant gap on the rest of the leaderboard.
English pair Danny Willett and Justin Rose, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and American amateur Jordan Niebrugge were four shots off the pace in a tie for sixth.
Scott’s late collapse saw him tied for 10th, while other Australians Marcus Fraser (tied for 20th), Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch (tied for 30th) and John Senden and Geoff Ogilvy (tied for 40th) were never in contention.