Willett falls short as Johnson is crowned Open champion

USA's Zach Johnson celebrates winning the Open Championship 2015 during day five of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews, Fife.
USA's Zach Johnson celebrates winning the Open Championship 2015 during day five of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews, Fife.
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Danny Willett was left to reflect on what might have been after his bid to become the first Yorkshireman to win the Open came up short as Zach Johnson prevailed in a play-off.

Willett, the world No 39 from Sheffield, who was in contention for the Claret Jug ever since opening with a round of 66 on Thursday, came up four shots shy of a three-man play-off on Monday night.

Johnson, the former Masters champion, played the four extra holes in one under par and was crowned champion when 2010 winner Louis Oosthuizen failed to hole a birdie putt on the final play-off hole.

Australia’s Marc Leishman was also involved in the play-off after all three finished 72 holes on 15 under par at St Andrews. But Leishman was never a factor in the play-off from the moment he bogeyed the first hole and his playing partners registered birdies.

In a rollercoaster of a final round at the ‘Home of Golf’, one symptomatic of a dramatic week, Willett first dropped out of contention with a slow start to the front nine before storming back into the equation with a birdie blitz after the turn.

Always with that little too much to do, a dropped shot on the 17th - the third successive round in which he bogeyed the famous ‘Road Hole’ - saw him finish in a still creditable tie for sixth.

“It’s a bit of a shame to finish how we did on 17, but all in all it’s been a pretty good week,” said Willett, who had holed four consecutive birdies from the 11th to revive his challenge.

“It was good, but we left ourselves lots to do.

“I hit it nice, but couldn’t really get anything going. The back nine started really, really well, I hit a lot of good golf shots.

“And it was good to play with (eventual winner) Zach (Johnson) today and look back and see what he did and didn’t do.”

Willett held the outright lead midway through Sunday’s third round before three bogeys in five holes saw him fall back into the pack and ultimately out of contention.

“We had a bit of a stale spell with the putter yesterday and today,” admitted the Rotherham Golf Club member.

“Those four shots back probably wouldn’t have been too hard to make up, so there’s plenty of positives to take.”

One of those positives is Willett finished his home major as the joint-highest European finisher alongside fellow Englishman Justin Rose and Spain’s Sergio Garcia.

He will also wake up this morning to the most advanced position he has ever occupied in the world rankings, likely to be nudging the top 30.

And his standing among home golfers has grown significantly.

“It’s been a bit mental on Twitter, the support has been great,” said Willett, who was the clubhouse leader on Friday before the weather delays of Saturday.

“That walk up 18 was pretty special.”