Tacoma, United States: Jordan Spieth's breakout season caught fire Sunday as he followed up his Masters victory by emerging from a crowded leaderboard to claim his first US Open title.
Jordan Spieth. Pic/AFP
Spieth is fast becoming the posterboy for American golf over the fading Tiger Woods, as he became the first player to capture the Masters and US Open in the same year since Woods did it in 2002. The 21-year-old Texan's stunning one-stroke victory over fellow American Dustin Johnson and South African Louis Oosthuizen at Chambers Bay golf course gets Spieth halfway home to an unprecedented calendar-year Grand Slam.
Spieth fired a closing one-under 69 for a five-under 275 total, denying a first time major championship for Johnson, who suffered a heartbreaking defeat after he three-putted on 18 including a putt to win the tournament. Johnson shot a 70 for a four-under 276 total to finish in a tie for second with Oosthuizen, who had a sizzling 67. Johnson missed his eagle putt for the win and then had a four-foot putt at the last to force a 18-hole playoff on Monday but he missed it.
Spieth is the youngest champion of the US Open since the legendary Bobby Jones in 1923 and the youngest player to win two career majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922. For the first time since 1973, four players headed into the final round with a share of the lead, comprising Spieth, Jason Day, Johnson and Branden Grace. Spieth was the first to blink, falling back with a bogey at the first.
He edged his way back into a share of the lead with Grace going down the back nine and a snaking 27-foot birdie putt at the 16th put him three clear with two to play as the South African hit out of bounds for a double bogey. He took a double bogey of his own at the 17th but birdied the last to take the lead. Playing in the final pairing, Johnson reached the par-five green in two and had a 12-foot eagle putt to win his first major title.
That effort slipped agonisingly four feet past and he missed the one back to force the playoff. Three players were tied for fourth - Australians Adam Scott (64) and Cameron Smith (68) and South African Branden Grace (71). Spieth used all the tricks he had in his bag but the biggest ace up his sleeve Sunday was his caddie Michael Greller who started his career at Chambers Bay.
The long hitting Johnson was trying to conquer the Chambers Bay course and claim a first major championship many believe he is long overdue having come close in all four Grand Slam tournaments in the past. Spieth, who won his first major at Augusta in April, was the biggest name among the co-leading quartet who had all won at some stage this year.
That includes Day, who courageously battled vertigo through the final three rounds, to shoot a closing 74 and finish at even-par 280, five strokes back of Spieth. Much criticised over the week by many players for its fiery fairways and bumpy greens, the links-type Chambers Bay course was again set to be a monster challenge at 7,384 yards.
Conditions though were perfect as they had been throughout the week. The biggest mover of the day Sunday was world number one Rory McIlroy, who shot a four-under 66. McIlroy, who has won two of the last three majors, started the day eight shots off the pace and at one point on the back nine got to within two of the leader. "I played a great front nine," McIlroy said.
"Instead of making two birdies on way in I made two bogeys which was disappointing." Day instantly became the crowd favourite after a frightening vertigo attack near the end of his second round that caused him to collapse in front of the ninth hole grandstand. He was still suffering in the final round, but soldiered on to finish with three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey.
Johnson is the biggest hitter on the PGA Tour and this year just when it appeared he was adding some a finesse around the greens to his game his putter let him down at the final hole. The 27-year-old Grace battled Spieth down the stretch but the South African slumped badly on the 16th hole, finishing with a double bogey to Spieth's birdie for a three-shot swing.