The gallery roars provided updates, all over Chambers Bay, as the 115th United States Open championship boiled down to 75 minutes of high drama.
But it was the sound of silence — and possibly a few groans — that ended up being sweet music to Jordan Spieth’s ears.
Spieth, the Masters champion, did not have his best game this week. Fortunately he had a fool-proof strategic plan, and a calm caddie in Michael Greller, who knew every inch of this massive piece of property to back him.
It set the stage for one of the most clutch shots in U.S. Open history — a cut 3-wood approach — that Spieth swung so hard at, he gave it an old Arnold Palmer one-legged finish.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
The golf ball sailed not only on the green, but the right part of it, catching the sideboard, and funneling in 15 feet underneath the hole. He two-putted for birdie.
And when Dustin Johnson blew a 4-foot putt for birdie right behind him which would’ve forced an 18-hole playoff, the title was Spieth’s — the Texas native’s second major in a two-month span.
Spieth shot a 1-under-par 69 to finish at 275. Johnson (70), of South Carolina, and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (67) tied for second, one stroke back at 276.
“It’s hard right now,” said Spieth, 21, who became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923. “I’m still amazed I won, let alone that we weren’t playing (a playoff Monday).
“I feel for Dustin.”
There was a lot of home-stretch sympathy to throw around — starting on the 16th tee.
That is where South Africa’s Branden Grace and Spieth stood as co-leaders at 5 under. With the tee at the par-4 moved up, Grace went for it all — and blocked his tee shot so far right, it landed out of bounds on a concrete walking path over the fence.
Grace took a double-bogey, and Spieth ended up making birdie, allowing the Texan to take a three-shot advantage with two holes left.
But Spieth showed he wasn’t immune to the pressure.
His tee shot at No. 17 went well right as well, landing in the rough. And once he got it out, he three-putted from 45 feet — watching his 5-footer for bogey slide hard right at the end.
“Obviously there was a little shock there,” Greller said. “But he is a fighter.”
On the 18th tee, Spieth knew he needed birdie — or better — to fend of Oosthuizen, who ran off a streak of six birdies over the final seven holes to grab the clubhouse lead at 4 under.
“You sort of forget how you play when you get in that situation of having a chance to win a major,” said Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner. “It was nice being in that spot again. I felt very relaxed. I felt eager to get to the next hole and try and get some birdies going.”
Less than a minute later, Spieth wound up on the biggest tee shot of the week — and hit the fairway.
Then came the 3-wood shot of his life.
“I struck it right in the middle of the face,” Spieth said.
His 15-foot eagle bid stayed left. But a birdie knocked Oosthuizen out of the tournament. Spieth is the first player to birdie the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Open by one stroke since Jones in 1926.
Then it was Johnson’s turn. He birdied No. 17, and bombed a drive at the finishing hole, leaving himself a 3-iron from 247 yards.
And it hit the front of the green and ran all the way back to the upper plateau, 12 feet left of the pin.
He studied the slick downhill putt carefully to win. Barely nudging it, the golf ball also stayed left, and kept going.
On the second putt to tie Spieth, Johnson wasted little time, and watched it slide left of the hole again.
“Whatever the putt did on the last hole — I don’t know,” said Johnson, still shellshocked 15 minutes later. “I might have pulled it a little bit. But still to me it looked like it bounced left. It’s tough. It’s very difficult.”
In the end, Spieth was the survivor of the first U.S. Open in the Pacific Northwest — on a links-style layout that had just opened in 2008. Some 31,000 spectators per day showed up to witness it, USGA officials said.
Owner of the first two majors this season, Spieth now has a legitimate shot at the grand slam. He next goes to the British Open at The Old Couse at St. Andrews.
“Every single thing that I’m able to do, somebody seems to find a history lesson on why I was the youngest to do something,” Spieth said. “For me, this is my life … and I’ve been doing it for a while.”
As for these embattled greens, USGA executive director Mike Davis guaranteed that if the U.S. Open returned to Chambers Bay, they would be smoother the next time around.
“In some ways, they were not as good as we hoped,” Davis said. “Some people would make it out like they are putting on broccoli. I completely disagree with that assessment … because we have had greens before that were bumpier than this.”