Wednesday, December 30

2015 Rewind: Zach Johnson's Improbable Open

(The following piece originally published on July 20, 2015.)

MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS AFTER being no one's pick to win the Masters, Zach Johnson has won the Open Championship by shooting a final-round 66 and defeating 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman in a four-hole playoff at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

After it was over, Johnson said he was speechless.

He probably wasn't the only one at a loss for words after an Open that stretched over five days and produced incredible excitement during a Monday finish that saw so many players with a chance to clutch the Claret Jug, including Jordan Spieth, who fell one stroke short in his march to the elusive Grand Slam.

Johnson, 39, started birdie-birdie in the four-hole playoff and held on to edge Oosthuizen by a shot.

"I'm grateful. I'm humbled. I'm honored," an emotional Johnson told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi on the 18th green. "This is the birthplace of the game .... I'm just in awe right now."

He added: "I've come a long way since 2007."

Yes, he has.

As for his place in the game, Johnson now has 12 PGA Tour wins, including two majors. To win a major puts you in special company, but to win multiple majors says a lot more, especially in this era.

"Dreams have been realized, goals accomplished," Johnson said at the trophy presentation.

He thanked everyone -- the R&A, his caddie, his wife, the spectators, people back home -- and said the course played fantastic through a lot of adverse weather conditions.

"I had a peace about the day," Johnson said. "It was divine."

And then he took a victory lap along the edges of the Old Course, slapping hands with the people who witnessed another major victory from someone who seems like an unlikely champion but is actually an exceptionally determined and talented competitor.

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