After struggling out of the gate Thursday, Johnson again played his way into a final pairing at a major.
which is where he stayed until he dropped
two—by then, meaningless—shots on the
last two holes. Between that eagle and the claret jug,
however, were waves of rain, bu;ets of wind and some
fortuitous bounces. Clarke got two wonderful breaks when
shots skipped over deep bunkers on the ninth and the 15th
holes. He made par at both when a ball up against the face
of a riveted bunker could have been his undoing.
Mickelson’s early charge, an echo of Tiger Woods’
front nine in this year’s Masters, came unraveled on
the back as well. After another birdie on the 10th, a
botched tiddler, just a couple of feet, on the 11th, was like
a stunning slap in the face. “It was just a dumb mental
error,” said Mickelson. He stumbled home in 38. John-
son struggled early, going out in one over, but birdies
on the 10th and 12th got him within two shots of Clarke.
Playing in the final twosome for the third time in the
last six majors, the long-hitting Johnson knew the par- 5
14th was his last, best chance at birdie. Trying to chase
a low 2-iron up on the green from 250 yards, he made a
wretched swing and watched the ball sail out-of-bounds
on the wind. In Clarke’s other best opportunity in an
Open Championship, 1997 at Royal Troon, he was the
one who carried the out-of-bounds stakes, sending a ball
onto the beach on the second hole. With Johnson and
Mickelson blown backward, Clarke sailed home.