ST ANDREWS, Scotland - History beckoned for Jordan Spieth, but it was the grit of Zach Johnson that won the British Open.
Johnson captured his second major Monday, claiming the British Open title after surviving a playoff against South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman.
The three golfers finished tied at 15-under-par 273 after 72 holes. Spieth, trying to win his third straight major of the year, and Australian Jason Day finished a shot back.
"These are the things you dream about," Johnson said as he sat clasping the Claret Jug on his lap. "These are the things you've worked to get to. I'm humbled because there are a lot of individuals who have put me in this position who trust in me, and I trust in them. I'm humbled by the talent I've been given, and because of what's in my lap and the names that are etched on this piece of metal, that is very special. It's the who's who of the game -- the guys who paved the way."
Spieth, the 21-year-old who won the Masters and U.S. Open, was in contention to claim the third leg of the Grand Slam. He converted a 50-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to grab a share of the lead with two holes to go, but he bogeyed the 17th hole and finished with a par on 18, ending his chances to join the playoff.
"Although we came in wanting to be two shots better, I'm very pleased with the way we battled," Spieth said.
As the afternoon breezes softened and the evening clouds darkened over St Andrews, Johnson took the early initiative in the four-hole playoff. Birdie putts of 8 feet at the first extra hole and 12 feet at the second earned Johnson the lead, and when Oosthuizen saw his 6-foot birdie putt just miss on the 18th green, Johnson had won.
"The key for the week was patience and perseverance, without question, and in the playoff in particular," said Johnson, whose first major success was at the 2007 Masters. "I can't really play any better than I did. I stayed in it and stayed in it and stayed in it, and waited for the opportunities, and luckily I made a few."
Adam Scott mounted a convincing charge for 13 holes and shared the lead with Leishman, but the 2013 Masters winner faded dramatically down the closing stretch, while a tightly packed leader board full of world-class quality produced a vintage race right until the end.
Johnson's birdie on the 18th hole finished off a 6-under 66 round that put him in the playoff.
Leishman looked like he was going to be the unlikely champion when he went out with a front nine of 5-under 31. But he missed a 4-footer for par on 16.
"I am pretty disappointed at the minute, having a chance to win and not being able to make it, but that's golf unfortunately," said Leishman, who finished in a tie for fifth at the 2014 British Open. "I'm happy. I've just finished second in The Open . . . I can go home and celebrate a little bit, I guess. It would have been nice to have the Claret Jug to drink out of, but I'll find something else."
Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion at St Andrews, was a runner-up for the second straight major. He tied with Dustin Johnson for second at last month's U.S. Open.
"It's never nice to lose a playoff," said Oosthuizen, who lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff at the 2012 Masters. "But I'll take a lot out of this week. I was really motivated to win. I love this place. I've said it a thousand times, and I can't wait for [the Open] to come back here again.
"This to me was probably one of the most exciting Opens. A lot of guys will take a lot of good out of this, and you know, it'll be great for golf if this [excitement] is going to be the way forward."