They had an American in mind, if one was going to win the Claret Jug.
They had a Johnson picked out, if one was going to challenge Jordan Spieth’s shot at history.
Wrong American, wrong Johnson.
Zach Johnson, the 39-year-old from Iowa, won his second Major title, outlasting Louis Oosthuizen and Mark Leishman in the four-hole aggregate playoff to become the first player to ever have his first two career Major victories come at Augusta National (2007) and St. Andrews.
He could have won the playoff outright but missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole, only to have Oosthuizen do likewise, to give him the crown. Spieth, who missed the playoff by one stroke, was one of the first onto the course to congratulate him.
“I’m grateful. I’m humbled. I’m honored,” Johnson said. “This is the birthplace of the game, and that jug means so much in sports.”
Having started the day in fifth place, Johnson finished ahead of other contenders on the timeline, with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to set the standard in the clubhouse at 15-under with a 66.
Leishman was in the lead until he bogeyed 16, and settled into the playoff when his birdie putt on 18 went wide left.
Oosthuizen, no stranger to pressure at St. Andrews, sank a 10-foot par putt on No. 17 to stay a shot back, then used a beautiful approach on 18 to line up a 5-foot birdie putt to reach the playoff with a 3-under 69.
It was the first playoff at The Open since 2002 at Muirfield.
Spieth was electrifying down the stretch in order to make up for a double-bogey on No. 8, but a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 16 put him into a share for the lead. He missed an 8-foot par putt on No. 17, needing a birdie to get in the playoff, and froze up halfway through the swing on his second shot as his caddie and he complained of a loud camera behind them.
After resetting, Spieth’s approach shot failed to gain the green and rolled back down the hill. His birdie shot still only missed by a few inches, but he had to settle for another par and a tie for fourth place.
Paul Dunne, the Irish amateur who shared the lead through 54 holes, was not part of the drama on Sunday. He bogeyed his first two holes and never recovered, winding up with a 78, tying for 30th at 6-under.
American amateur Jordan Niebrugge faired much better, closing with a 70 to tie for 6th with an 11-under 277.