The final round of the 2015 U.S. Open began with four men tied atop the leaderboard, and from that quartet, the young wunderkind Jordan Spieth was left standing as the champion at Chambers Bay on Sunday.
Spieth backed up his Masters triumph with an emphatic statement in University Place, Washington, shooting a one-under 69 to claim victory by one stroke over Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen.
The 21-year-old Spieth birdied the par-five 18th after double-bogeying the prior hole, showing uncommon composure coming off such a critical blunder. He finished at five under par overall.
The PGA Tour's official Twitter account provided a nice snapshot of what Spieth accomplished with his second major win in as many such starts:
But some may remember this U.S. Open more for what Johnson, who shot a level-par 70, didn't do and what could have been on the final hole.
After striping a drive and smashing a 5-iron to about 12 feet from the hole, he had an eagle chance to win the championship outright. Johnson proceeded to run his first putt too far past the hole and missed the five-foot comeback putt to lose in unforgettable fashion.
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel logged Spieth's reaction to Johnson's meltdown, along with what Johnson had to say about the debacle:
Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell sympathized with Johnson afterward:
Spieth started the 16th hole in a tie for the lead with Branden Grace, who, as Adam Sarson of theScore noted, had sealed the deal in each of his prior opportunities to close out a tournament with the 54-hole lead:
The 27-year-old South African already has six career European Tour wins to his credit and figures to be a factor in future majors as he enters his prime, but he made a grave error on the 16th.
Grace abruptly brought his chances of a first major win to a halt by spraying his tee shot way right and out of bounds, leading to a double bogey.
On the same hole, Spieth made this gooseflesh-inducing birdie putt to move three strokes ahead of the field:
As magnificent as Spieth's putt was on the 70th hole of the tournament, his wayward tee shot at the par-three 17th found the thick rough around the green and crated a near-impossible chip. Spieth gouged his ball out but three-putted for a double bogey.
That prompted the following reaction from ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
A rousing rally by Oosthuizen added plenty of drama to the last nine. Owner of one of the sweetest swings in the world, he overcame a first-round 77 to card two 66s and get back into the hunt.
Bogeys at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seemed to derail Oosthuizen before he heated up late, carding five straight birdies from the 12th to the 16th. His best among that bunch came off a stupendous hole-out at the 14th to keep his U.S. Open hopes alive:
Oosthuizen didn't really slow down—he birdied No. 18 to post a 67 just minutes before Spieth's three-jack at No. 17 to post four under—which put him into a tie with Spieth at that point.
It appeared as though Johnson had this championship in the bag with a peerless ball-striking display on the front nine. A fair share of his putts burned the edge, yet he was still bogey-free en route to a two-under 33 to reach six under par.
Things became dicier once "DJ" blocked a 9-iron from the middle of the 10th fairway and failed to get up and down. Another dropped shot at the 11th preceded a miss from six feet for birdie at No. 12. Yet another bogey at No. 13 suddenly sank Johnson to three under, two behind Spieth and Grace.
Ryan Lavner of Golf Channel was critical of Johnson's play toward the beginning of the back nine:
He bounced back to birdie the 17th after missing a great chance on 16, only to have the letdown at the final hole.
Jason Day joined Johnson in the last pairing despite dealing with spells of vertigo since Friday. A roller-coaster round came unraveled when Day double-bogeyed the par-four 13th.
Sports Illustrated's Alan Shipnuck had a fitting reaction to Day's performance:
The putt of the day came from world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who began the final round eight shots off the lead but looked to be threatening amid a magnificent round. This birdie at the par-four 13th got McIlroy to two under:
But McIlroy's putter went cold when he missed a golden birdie chance at the next hole, followed by a six-foot par misfire at the par-three 15th. He had to settle for a stellar four-under 66 after it looked like he may pull off an epic come-from-behind charge.
Adam Scott posted the round of the championship with a Sunday 64, climbing all the way to three under to at least give the leaders something to think about. It just wasn't quite enough to deny Spieth.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel highlighted the exciting generation of young talent:
Sports Illustrated had a fitting post once Spieth's victory was secured, as did Golf Channel's Damon Hack, who highlighted all of the storylines that emerged from the last 18 holes at Chambers Bay:
Spieth's legend is already growing by leaps and bounds. Even when he burst onto the scene in the final pairing at last year's Masters, few could have anticipated he'd be right back there to win the green jacket in such dominant fashion—much less claim the next major championship, too.
At the champion's press conference, Spieth didn't shy away from aiming even higher, per Golf Digest's Mike O'Malley:
The prospect of Spieth completing the Grand Slam in a single calendar year seems outlandish, yet he seems to surpass expectations whenever anyone tries to curb the possibilities on what he can do. There's no telling whether he's capable of accomplishing the feat or how many majors he can win moving forward, but at this point, betting against him seems unwise.
The gutting loss for Johnson is his latest close call at a major, but his sheer athleticism and raw ability ought to give him more chances down the road.
Considering the way McIlroy finished and how spectacular Spieth has been in the majors, those two fresh faces of golf should carry plenty of momentum into the next major, The Open Championship at St Andrews.
McIlroy will be guarding the Claret Jug, and he finished tied for third the last time it was held at St Andrews in 2010. Interestingly enough, Oosthuizen won the British Open by seven shots that year, so he figures to be a factor as well in what's setting up to be a magnificent third major of the season at "The Home of Golf."