History was going to be made no matter what at the 2015 Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. A Champion Golfer of the Year would be crowned at the birthplace of golf, the most storied place in the history of the game. Also, the opportunity existed for Jordan Spieth to become only the second professional in the history of the game to win the first 3 majors in the same year. Anticipation, excitement and the chance for immortality were felt from the first tee shot until the final putt was holed.
The other main story was the weather. Heavy rains flooded the course early on Friday causing a long delay before the 2nd round could start and play was suspended due to darkness Friday night which meant some groups had to finish their 2nd rounds early Saturday before the cut could be established. Mother nature had other plans. Saturday morning brought winds as high as 55 miles an hour causing a very lengthy suspension of play. It was then decided the Open Championship would have only it’s 3rd ever Monday finish at St. Andrews.
The 3rd round on Sunday was like watching a Nascar race. The lead was constantly changing with over 20 players within 3 shots of the lead for most of the day. It was one of the most exciting rounds in Open Championship history made even more special because of the venue. And right in the mix all day was Jordan Spieth who finished the 3rd round one shot out of the lead. An amazing performance given all that was at stake for him.
Monday started out much the same as Sunday with the lead changing constantly again and again. At several points during the final round there were as many as 6 players tied for the lead. It was edge-of-your-seat amazing golf to watch for hours. As the round went on the fatigue of the championship being contested over 5 days started to show. Players who had been tied for or 1 or 2 shots out of the lead started to miss shots and putts, and the number of players having a chance of history and immortality at the birthplace of golf started to shrink. On the back nine the players in the final groups who had positioned themselves for victory included Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion at St. Andrews looking to become just the 5th man in history to win the Open twice at the Old Course. Marc Leishman, a relative unknown with one PGA Tour victory. Zach Johnson, 2007 Master’s Champion and 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, and…Jordan Spieth, the 21 year-old, 5-time PGA Tour winner, 2015 Masters and U.S. Open Champion, ranked 2nd in the world, chasing immortality.
Zach Johnson posted -15 under in the clubhouse before the final 2 groups had finished. So those players knew the number they had to match or beat. The pressure was on. As the final holes came and went, Jordan Spieth found himself on the 18th needing birdie to tie Zach Johnson at -15. He missed a 30-foot putt from the front of the green by less than an inch. An in an instant his chance at history and immortality was gone. Right behind Spieth the final 2 groups played 17 and 18 and, with great play on those difficult finishing holes, Oosthuizen and Leishman were able to match Johnson forcing a 3-man, 4-hole playoff. The excitement just kept building and building.
Zach Johnson continued his aggressive play, making birdie on the first 2 playoff holes. The others would not be able to overcome that strong start and Johnson putted out for par on 18th hole to become the 2015 Open Champion, winner of the Gold Medal and Champion Golfer of the Year.
This Open Championship will go down in history as one of the most exciting and thrilling in the history of the event. And, as Johnson carried the Claret Jug, the most sough-after prize in the game, around the 18th hole, sharing it with the fans and the people of St. Andrews, we were once again reminded why this game is so great in so many ways and why those of us who love it always will.