Johnson admits returning Claret Jug was bittersweet

Defending Champion Zach Johnson poured one last bottle of wine into the Claret Jug before the ‘bitter sweet’ moment of handing back golf’s most famed trophy.

The American presented the Claret Jug mid-Monday morning in a now traditional handing-back ceremony to R&A CEO, Martin Slumbers in front of the Royal Troon clubhouse and venue for this week’s 145th Open Championship.

Johnson collected a second Major Championship a year ago defeating Australia’s Marc Leishman and South African and 2010 Open winner, Louis Oosthuizen over a four-hole play-off at St. Andrews.

But before handing it back to Slumbers, Johnson revealed one last bottle of red wine was poured into the Claret Jug on Sunday night, with Johnson again toasting his success with his caddy, manager and close friends.

“We had wine out of the Claret Jug last night, and besides it’s a Claret decanter, so it serves its purpose in that regard, too,” he said.

“It was bittersweet handing back this morning to Mr. Slumbers,” he said.

“More sweet, but the fact that you’ve got it give back you know it’s coming. I guess a portion of that sweetness is you still have an opportunity to get it back yourself.”

However Johnson’s manager revealed the R&A has tightened-up on replicas of the Claret Jug with Johnson being handed just one replica and stopping the process, as was the scenario with 2014 Open Champion, Rory McIlroy being able to purchase three ¾ size replicas.

“Since I played in this golf tournament, and it was here I played my first Open, my love for it was immense and immediate,” he said.

“It’s my favourite to play. I just love it and I think I have embraced, and you have to, as conditions are what they are.”

“The second thing is the fans as prior to 2004 I hadn’t played much over here at all and the knowledge and the wisdom they have for this game.”

“You take the ‘Postage Stamp’ hole (Par 3, eighth hole measuring 123-yards) as you can hit to 15-feet there and there is still a pretty stout round of applause.”

“Maybe that’s not the best example but they just get it. They get this game.”

Johnson will commence his defence of the championship teeing off on Thursday at 2.25pm UK time in the company of Australia’s Adam Scott and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.