Cool head was McDowell’s key
Graeme McDowell credited his even temperament for ending Europe’s 40-year wait for US Open glory on Sunday.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell credited his even temperament for seeing him through a dramatic final day at Pebble Beach and famously ending Europe’s 40-year wait for US Open glory.
McDowell, 30, held his nerve at the famous Northern California course to land his first major with a one-shot victory over Gregory Havret of France.
His three-over-par 74 gave the Northern Irishman a level-par finish and not only made him the first US Open champion from Europe since Tony Jacklin in 1970, but put him alongside golfing greats Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods as the Pebble Beach winners of the championship.
McDowell had been the 36-hole leader before Dustin Johnson took over after round three, but he rallied as his American rival imploded at the start of the final day.
Johnson squandered his three-shot lead at the second hole to blow the final round wide open, with McDowell rising to the challenge and holding his nerve best as other more feared challengers, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, faltered.
“I controlled my emotions,” said McDowell. “I felt calm all week.
“Probably the worst I’ve been was Thursday when I got a little frustrated out there.
“I hit it out of position a few times, hit a few bad shots and got frustrated.
“You just can’t do that at a US Open and I promised myself I was going to be calm, I was going to hang tough.”
McDowell also paid tribute to his caddie Ken Comboy for keeping him together around 72 holes of one of the toughest challenges in golf.
“I have a great caddie on my bag who keeps me calm, and I really just try to stay in the present as much as I can,” he continued.
“This is just a special golf course to win. I dreamt of winning major championships and to win my first one; I wanted to win multiple and you can’t win multiple until you win your first.
“I can’t believe it. Pebble Beach, it’s such a special venue.”
Havret was second, having shot a 72 to finish one over par, with Els third on two over after a 73 and the world’s first and second-ranked golfers Woods (75) and Mickelson (73) tied for fourth a further shot back.
McDowell, the world number 37, follows another Portrush native Fred Daly, winner of the 1947 Open Championship, as a major winner but he had almost not made the field after his tie for 28th at the BMW PGA Championships gave US Tour players Scott Verplank, Michael Sim and Brian Gay the chance to oust him from the world’s top 50 rankings with their finishes at the Byron Nelson Championship.
They failed to do so and McDowell got in, going on to win the Celtic Manor Wales Open two week ago and bringing that winning form to Pebble Beach to lead the US Open at halfway.
American Johnson, with a seemingly unflappable demeanour, outscored him in the third round to take a three-shot cushion at six under par into the final round but did not last long with the pressure of a Sunday lead at the majors.
His disasters at the second, with a triple-bogey, and the third, with a double, sent him tumbling out of contention and handed McDowell the lead he did not relinquish, despite four bogeys on his back nine.
Havret, who had qualified for the tournament at Walton Heath, birdied the first and sixth holes but bogeyed eight and 10 to fall back to level par but did not drop a shot again until the 17th, keeping the pressure on McDowell down the final stretch.
Both bogeyed the 17th and McDowell went to the par-five 18th one ahead with the Frenchman still on the course ahead.
As McDowell waited to play his second shot, Havret missed his birdie putt, instead making par for a one-over 72 to finish one over and leave the leader needing a par or better.
He and Comboy immediately made the decision to lay up and McDowell did the sensible thing before sending in a solid shot to the middle of the green to leave himself with two putts for victory.
First he had to wait for Johnson to putt out, then he rolled his first putt to within a foot and tapped in, looking to the skies then producing a double fist pump before a tearful embrace with Comboy.
Havret was a dignified runner-up, saying: “The feeling right now is it’s probably the best surprise for me. I’m very happy but it’s also the biggest disappointment.
“But to play golf like this, compete for the title… just before 17, I was really playing fine and I had some opportunities and then nearly holed that long putt on 16.
“It’s a shame I didn’t get up and down on the last but I’m very happy.
“I need probably a couple of hours to get over it. Absolutely. I’ll have a great night and some fantastic memories.”
The Graeme McDowell fact file
1979: Born Portrush, July 30.
1996: Wins Ulster Boys Championship.
1998: Attends the University of Alabama.
1999: Wins Irish Youths Championship.
2000: Further success in the Palmer Cup, Irish Amateur Maury Close Championship, Irish Youths Championship, World Universities Championship and South of Ireland Championship.
2001: Palmer Cup winner again and also part of Great Britain and Ireland team which retains Walker Cup in Georgia.
2002: Wins Haskins Award for most outstanding collegiate golfer in the United States. Later turns professional and goes on to win Scandinavian Masters in only his fourth start on the European Tour.
2004: Success in the Italia Open – after a play-off with Thomas Levet – helps him finish sixth on the European Tour Order of Merit.
2005: Divides his time between the European and PGA Tours and earns top-50 placing in the official world rankings.
2006: Fails to finish in the top 150 in 2006 PGA Tour money list.
2007: Competes on the European Tour.
2008: Wins Ballantine’s Championship in Korea and Scottish Open. Earns 2.5 points for the European team in the Ryder Cup and finishes the season ranked fifth on the Order of Merit.
2010: June: Follows success in Celtic Manor Wales Open with victory in the US Open at Pebble Beach, becoming the first Northern Irishman to accomplish the feat and the first European to win the event since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
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