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21 July 2015, 07:07
Open champion Zach Johnson paid tribute to Jordan Spieth after the Masters and US Open winner came agonisingly close to keeping his grand slam dream alive.
Spieth needed a birdie on the 18th hole at St Andrews to get into a play-off but saw his approach spin back off the green into the Valley of Sin and narrowly missed the birdie attempt.
Johnson went on to defeat 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australia's Marc Leishman in the four-hole aggregate play-off and Spieth was one of the first to congratulate his Ryder Cup team-mate afterwards.
"I can't describe the magnitude as to what he (Spieth) was going through because I've never been in that position certainly,'' said Johnson, who finished a shot outside the play-off won by Spieth in the John Deere Classic eight days earlier.
"We haven't really seen that with the exception of Tiger, right?
"Truthfully he could be sitting here. But to have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to give me best wishes speaks volumes as to what he is. He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now, he's a better person than he is a golfer.''
Johnson, who carded a closing 66 to set the clubhouse target of 15 under which was matched by Leishman and then Oosthuizen, fought back tears during the presentation ceremony but later managed to celebrate his success by high-fiving hundreds of spectators at the Old Course.
"I feel blessed to be the champion,'' said the 39-year-old, who won the Masters at Augusta in 2007.
"I feel honoured to be part of the history of this game and to don my name on that trophy, especially with the names before me. Humbling and surreal are two words that come to mind. I am fairly speechless right now. Dreams have been realised and goals accomplished.
"I can't play any better than what I did. I had a lull on Friday and Saturday but nothing significant, but stayed in it and waited for the opportunities and made a few.''
Johnson admitted he often flies under the radar compared to the likes of Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, but joked: "Well, I guess that radar is going bonkers right now.
"I don't mind being in that position and when my game is good, certainly I surface on the radar. I don't know if it's ever really beeping on me.
"But I said it back in 2007. I feel like God gave me the ability to play a game. I try to take it very seriously. I realise it's just a game. I'm just a guy from Iowa that has been blessed with a talent and this game provides great opportunity.
"It's a feat to be invited and an honour to be invited to these tournaments, and to win at Augusta and to win the Open Championship at St Andrews, it's hard to put it into words.''