He never stood much of a chance.
Young finished in second place on the Old Course in the 150th British Open after driving the green and sinking a 17-foot eagle putt on the par-four 18th. That put him at 19-under 269 for the tournament. Playing partner Cameron Smith was also at 19 under, but the Australian still had a two-foot birdie putt to get to 20 under.
“Cameron was not going to miss that,” said Young, who shot a seven-under 65 on Sunday and lost to Smith by one stroke.
The eagle moved Young one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy, who missed a birdie putt on the 18th a few minutes later. Smith shot a 64 in the final round to win the Claret Jug and match the major championship record to par with his winning score.
“It probably hurts a little worse to come up one shot short. If you lose by eight you don’t really care,” said Young, a 25-year-old American who is from New York. “I would have signed up for 65 this morning. And to watch Cameron shoot what he did, it was pretty amazing.”
Young was at or near the top of leaderboard on all four days at St Andrews. He opened with an eight-under 64 on Thursday to take the early lead, added a 69 in the second round and a 71 on Saturday.
Heading out for the final round on Sunday, he and Smith were tied for third, four strokes behind McIlroy and Viktor Hovland.
Two bogeys on the front nine — on the first and ninth holes — set him back, but seven total birdies before the eagle on the last kept him in contention to win his first major.
The bogey on No. 9 was a surprise considering Young had birdied that hole in all three previous rounds this week.
“I think I tried a little hard to get it to the green knowing that right is totally fine. I was just trying to hit one really hard and turning right to left and I just overdid it,” Young said. “Probably just maybe not the best decision I made. And not the best shot I hit today. Just one of those times.”
Young was playing at his first British Open. He has never made the cut at the Masters or the U.S. Open, but he did get some valuable major tournament experience at this year’s PGA Championship. He finished in a tie for third after a double bogey on the 16th at Southern Hills.
“At this point — not as much as some of those other guys — but I’ve at least been around the lead a lot this year,“ Young said. “In the PGA Championship in a major, so it’s not the first time I’ve been in that situation.
“And the more I put myself there, I think I said at the PGA one of these times I’ll shoot five under on the back (nine) and that will be enough. And today I did. And it wasn’t.”
Trying to get to five under on the back nine Sunday meant going all out on one last drive.
With the Old Course playing hard and fast all week, many of the par-four holes have been drivable. Young knew he needed an eagle on the final hole to pressure Smith so he teed it up and went all out.
“I don’t know what that hole played to this week, but I’d imagine probably more than half of the people were making birdie. The way Cameron Smith chips and putts, I didn’t really think he would make a four,” Young said. “So, yes, I kind of was just trying to get it there and trying to give myself some kind of look, because obviously you never know.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.