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The Open Championship

Spieth sees off Kuchar to lift Claret Jug

Jordan Spieth: youngest winner since 1979 (SNS Group)


Jordan Spieth saw off a battling two-day challenge from countryman Matt Kuchar to lift the Claret Jug on a final day of extraordinary golf at Royal Birkdale.

The 23-year-old American finished at 12 under, three ahead of his rival to become the youngest Open champion since 22-year-old Seve Ballesteros in 1979. It was his third major success.

He also joined the great Jack Nicklaus as the only golfer under the age of 24 to win at least three legs of the Grand Slam.

A record attendance cheered the two leaders through rain-soaked conditions and marvelled at the quality of golf from both players, none more so than when Spieth pulled off a minor miracle at the 13th.

In a sequence of events that will live forever in the history of The Open Spieth managed to overcome the seemingly impossible to keep his challenge on course.

He and and Kuchar reached the par-4 13th tee tied for the lead at eight under. After Kuchar drove into the rough to the left, Spieth hit his worst drive of the week, his ball landing some 100 yards right of the fairway in thick grass on the side of a huge dune.

Spieth chose to declare an unplayable lie, meaning he would take a penalty stroke and drop his ball in a more favourable area on the same line no closer to the hole. But behind his ball was the practice area which was lined with various structures and equipment trailers.

Nearly 20 minutes after hitting his drive, Spieth took a drop on the range, nearly 70 yards behind his original lie. He managed to hit a shot just short of the right greenside bunker.

As Kuchar spent the time kneeling on the 13th green, eating a granola bar, he then missed his birdie putt and settled for par. Spieth made his putt to finish with a bogey that will go down in Open folklore.

The 146th staging of the event had been seen as a perfect setting for the Spanish who came in on the back of a series of tournament wins, though only Scottish Open winner Rafa Cabrera-Bello finished in the top 10.

Matthew Southgate closed out a round of 65 to finish as the highest placed Englishman on four under.

Rory McIlroy knew he was up against it today, but finished within touching distance of the winner on five under.

“It was tough conditions,” said the Northern Irishman. “Tougher than yesterday and I thought 67 was a good score.

“That lost ball on 15 was disappointing, but I thought if I could get to seven under I’d have a good chance.

“It’s tough coming in and the leaders have their work cut out. I’m getting there, I got off to a terrible start and then got it together in the middle and should have been a bit better yesterday.

“It was definitely a week of what might have been, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Playing in his first Open, China’s Haotong Li scorched the closing nine at Royal Birkdale with a five under 31 that included four consecutive birdies to finish on six-under.

A day earlier, Branden Grace became the first player to shoot 62 in a men’s major. Li’s final day 63 was the 32nd time a 63 had been shot in a major championship.

Grace struggled to repeat Saturday’s heroics. His level par 70 included two birdies and two bogeys, and the South African ended up four under.

Henrik Stenson put in a robust defence of his title but closed with a level-par 70 to finish at three-under.

FINAL SCORES

1 Spieth, Jordan              -12

2 Kuchar, Matt                  -9

3 Li, Haotong                    -6

4 McIlroy, Rory                -5

5 Cabrera-Bello, Rafael    -5

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