ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- And so it became the tale of one hole.
The 17th here at the Home of Golf, otherwise known as the Road Hole because of the road that runs alongside it, is the hardest hole on the Open Championship rota, if not all the majors.
After wind stopped play for almost all of Saturday, conditions at St. Andrews were near perfect for Sunday's third round and Monday's finale. The Old Course simply had no defence - but still 17 held its own, and proved pivotal, not only in regulation play, but in the three-man playoff that decided the destination of the Claret Jug.
As Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman reached the tee for the third of four extra holes, Johnson was leading by one. But it all looked so destined to change when the American left himself an awkward chip over the Bunker with no green to play with. Predictably, Johnson flew the ball off the back of the green and was forced into an up-and-down for a bogey.
Surely Oosthuizen's hole then, right? Wrong. The 2010 champion drifted an eight-foot par putt wide and he had to settle for a bogey - the 48th and final bogey on a day of brutal scoring at the Road Hole. It proved to be decisive as Johnson was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year for 2015.
Back in regulation play, the Road Hole claimed the biggest victim of them all.
Jordan Spieth, chasing the third part of a historic Grand Slam, had just holed a bomb at 16 to move to 15-under-par and level with Johnson and Leishman, who at this point were already in the clubhouse. Spieth pushed his ball out into the second fairway to leave himself around 240 yards to the hole. He left himself a chip, which he knocked expertly to around six feet, before missing. It was his third bogey at the hole all week. Three dropped shots that cost him the highest of prices.
"If I stood on 17 tee box and you told me I had that putt for par on the hole, I would have certainly taken it," Spieth said. "I wouldn't say that very often on a par-4. That was as hard a par-4 as I think we've played all year, and just unfortunately didn't hit a great very, very solid putt. So many putts are so straight out here, and I read too much into it instead of just playing it off the left lip, and it was unfortunate at the end."
Spieth went on to par the 18th and miss out on the playoff.
The numbers are astonishing. The 17th yielded just one birdie all day, in 83 attempts from 80 players, as the average number of shots on the hole drifted out to 4.80 - almost unheard of for a par-4.
The 17th at #TheOpen today: Birdies: 1 Pars: 26 Bogeys: 48 (inc 3 in playoff) Doubles: 6 Triples: 2 Ave: 4.80 The Road Hole bites back.— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryESPN) July 20, 2015
The scores on the hole read more like a par-5 than par-4: 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 6, 7, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 4, 7, 4, 5, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 6, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5.
The sole gain was by Billy Horschel, while Phil Mickelson landed his ball on a balcony on the Old Course Hotel en route to his triple bogey. Jamie Donaldson had the other.
There were some heroes though, on a day where par will have felt like birdie.
Oosthuizen holed a lengthy, downhill par putt that snaked its way and dropped into the hole, while Leishman also held his nerve. Both pars were vital in extending the tournament -- already in only its second Monday finish -- by four holes.
High scores were understandable and expected. The 17th was studied for many years by the R&A, who weren't happy that players were being far too conservative. As a result, they lengthened it to force a driver off the tee.
But on a day where the Old Course was on her knees, the Road Hole well and truly came out kicking and screaming.