It’s two down and two to go as Jordan Spieth became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the season’s first two Majors after a thrilling one-shot victory at Chambers Bay.
The 21-year-old, who is the youngest US Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923 and the fourth youngest to win two Majors, returned a one-under-par 69 to edge out fellow American Dustin Johnson, who three-putted the final green after earlier lining up a 15-foot eagle effort that would have landed him victory.
In a day of seesawing sub-plots, it was Spieth – winner of the US Masters by four shots in April – who held firm despite a double bogey five at the par-three 17th when he was leading by two.
Johnson himself had been out in front before stuttering on the back nine, while South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen carded six birdies in seven holes to hold the clubhouse lead on four-under.
Oosthuizen, who looked out of the tournament following his opening round 77, came home in just 29 shots to defy the brutal set-up of Robert Trent Jones Jnr’s layout. However, Spieth’s closing birdie at the 617-yard par-five would inevitably force the 2010 Open champion into a share of second place with Johnson.
Earlier, World Number One Rory McIlroy had looked likely to muscle his way into the pack, firing six birdies over his opening 13 holes to lie two shots off the overnight leaders. But a missed 10-foot birdie putt at the 14th was followed by a bogey at 15, and his tournament was over two holes later when he bogeyed again to drop back to level-par.
During a week where the course at Chambers Bay, especially the greens, came in for much criticism, it was perhaps unsurprising that the final act of this 115th US Open would be decided with a missed, bobbling effort from such a short distance. The lack of trust between the players and putting surfaces was evident throughout, and none more so than in Johnson’s defining moment.
Chasing an eagle three to win or a birdie four to force a play-off, Johnson – riddled with off-course issues throughout 2014 – hit one of the shots of the week to hold the back of the green in two. But the 31-year-old from South Carolina looked nervous as he watched his eagle effort, for victory, sail gently passed its target and when he yanked the returning four-footer wide, it signalled wild celebrations as the watching Spieth realised his victory.
Afterwards the 21-year-old was almost lost for words, admitting he was proud of the manner in which he battled for his victory in Washington State.
“I’m in shock but I feel for Dustin,” said Spieth. “It’s cool to conquer golf’s hardest test – the US Open – is conquering the hardest layout in all of golf.
“I didn’t have my best ball-striking at all and really grinded over those four or five-footers – that was the difference.”
Johnson added: “I did everything I was supposed to do. I hit the ball really well. I just really struggled getting it in the hole. I didn’t think I was hitting bad putts; they just weren’t going in.”
Spieth, who now needs to win next month’s Open and the USPGA at Whistling Straits in August to be the first player to complete the Grand Slam of holding all four Majors in a calendar year, will arrive in St Andrews where a much-anticipated head-to-head duel with McIlroy awaits.
“You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first two,” said Spieth. “We’ll go the Home of Golf prepared to try and win the Claret Jug.”