Zach Johnson: I was reading scripture during Open victory

Zach Johnson of the US celebrates after winning the British Open golf championship in St Andrews, Scotland, July 20, 2015.Reuters

Golfer Zach Johnson says his surprise win in this week's Open Golf tournament was partly inspired by his devotion to prayer and the Bible. The 39-year-old American was a rank outsider, but saw off the threat of emerging superstar Jordan Spieth to win the second Major of his career at St Andrews on Monday. A committed Christian, he told reporters that he'd been reading verses of scripture in order to stay focused throughout the tournament.

"I was reading bits of scripture to myself, things like Psalm 24:7 (which reads, "Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in")," he told reporters. "I've been reading them all week. I thank God for the talent he's given me, and I take it seriously." In a TV interview, he suggested that these verses had helped to give him focus during difficult conditions. "I had some scripture going in my head and I thank the Lord," he said.

Johnson's words in victory echoed his response to winning his previous Major, the US Masters, in 2007. After that win, he told the assembled media: "I felt regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God, and hopefully he thinks I did."

The golfer has always been upfront about his faith. In a testimony article on the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) website, Johnson says that after growing up in a Catholic household and then heading off in a more worldly direction as a student, he became a Christian after meeting the woman who would go on to become his wife, and for whom marrying a non-Christian would be a 'deal-breaker'. He says he then agreed to explore the faith again.

"I discovered what it meant to 'live for Christ,'" he says, "and that it honestly was something I wanted to do. The facts were there, and I could sense the Holy Spirit at work. Early in the winter of 2002, I gave my life to the Lord. Before I was one," he says, "I always thought being a Christian would be boring. In reality, it has been the complete opposite."

Johnson now refers to his pre-Christian life (with not too much political correctness) as "my blind years", and says his faith now is "all that matters." Monday's victory, and the attached £1.15 million prize, are presumably just a huge bonus.

Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape. You can follow him on Twitter: @martinsaunders