Another major for Jordan Spieth. Another stunning loss for Dustin Johnson.
Chambers Bay delivered heart-stopping drama Sunday in the U.S. Open when Spieth birdied his final hole to become only the sixth player to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year. The real surprise was not that he won, but how he won.
Johnson had a 12-foot eagle putt for the victory. Two putts would force an 18-hole playoff Monday. Less than a minute later, Spieth was shocked to be the youngest U.S. Open champion since 1923.
Johnson’s eagle putt ran by the cup and stopped just over 3 feet away. With his future father-in-law Wayne Gretzky watching, Johnson’s short birdie putt rolled by the left edge.
“I’m still amazed that I won, let alone that we weren’t playing tomorrow,” Spieth said. “So for that turnaround right there, to watch that happen, I feel for Dustin, but I haven’t been able to put anything in perspective yet.”
Lost in Johnson’s blunder was the clutch play of the Masters champion. Having lost control of the tournament with a double bogey on the 17th hole, Spieth drilled his tee shot and hit a 3-wood that caught the back bank and rolled below the cup. His eagle putt was wide left, giving him a 1-under 69.
He walked off the green at 5-under 275 and worried about golf’s biggest hitter playing the par-5 behind.
“I didn’t think it was good enough,” Spieth said. “But man, I couldn’t be more happy right now.”
Spieth becomes the first player since Bobby Jones to make birdie on the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Open by one shot, all because of Johnson’s three-putt. The 21-year-old Texan heads to St. Andrews next month in pursuit of golf’s holy grail – the Grand Slam.
Tiger Woods in 2002 was the last player to get the first two legs of the slam. In 1960, Arnold Palmer went to St. Andrews for a chance at three in a row.
For all the criticism of the unique course at Chambers Bay, this was the theater at its finest.
But there will be lingering questions about the condition of the greens, so bumpy that they were referred to as broccoli and Billy Horschel said he lost respect for the USGA. This championship ended with a short miss, the target of complaints all week.
The final hour was so wild that four players could have won over the last two holes.
Tied for the lead with Branden Grace of South Africa, Spieth looked like he wrapped this up with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole. He turned toward Puget Sound, pumped his fist and yelled, “YEAH!”
That gave him a three-shot lead because Grace hit his tee shot onto the railroad tracks out-of-bounds and made double bogey.
And then his lead was gone.
Spieth hit into the fescue-covered mounds right of the 17th and made double bogey.
Louis Oosthuizen made one last birdie – his sixth over the last seven holes – for a 67 to post at 4-under 276. Johnson, who had a two-shot lead at the turn until missing so many putts on the back nine, was forgotten until he stuffed his tee shot on the par-3 17th to 4 feet for birdie.
Spieth, a wire-to-wire winner at Augusta National, showed he can be clutch with his 3-wood into the 18th. And then came Johnson in the final group, blasting his tee shot so far that he only needed a 5-iron, and he put that to 12 feet.
Make it and win. Two putts and he still gets a playoff.
He made par.
Johnson said he might have hit it even farther past the hole if he had not seen the speed of Jason Day’s putt.
“I did everything I was supposed to do,” he said. “I hit the ball really well. I’m proud of the way I handled myself and the way I played today. I just really struggled getting it in the hole today. I didn’t think I was hitting bad putts. I thought I was hitting them pretty good they just weren’t going in.”
It was the fourth heartache for Johnson in the majors, and this was the worst. He didn’t shoot 82 in the final round like he did at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open. He didn’t ground his club in a bunker that cost him a spot in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights. He didn’t hit a shot out-of-bounds like he did in the 2011 British Open.
Twelve feet from a win. Three putts and he lost.
“Just missed it left,” Johnson said.
Jason Day, who collapsed on Friday with vertigo only to rally for a share of the 54-hole lead, fell back with missed putt and was never in the hunt on the back nine. He closed with a 74 to finish five shots behind.
Grace never recovered from that double bogey on No. 16 and shot 71 to tie for fourth with Adam Scott (64) and Cameron Smith (68).
It was a homecoming of sorts for Spieth – and his caddie, Michael Greller.
Greller was a sixth-grade math teacher who caddied in the summer at Chambers Bay when he hooked up with a young Texan who needed a caddie at Gold Mountain, where Spieth won the U.S. Junior Amateur. Greller knew this course better than any caddie. And he had the right horse who’s on the ride of his life.
Spieth is the youngest player to win two majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922.
Final leader board
-5 Jordan Spieth
-4 Louis Oosthuizen
-4 Dustin Johnson
-3 Adam Scott
-3 Cameron Smith
-3 Branden Grace
E Rory McIlroy
E Jason Day
2015 remaining majors
British Open, July 16-19
PGA Championship, Aug. 13-16