McDowell wins U.S. Open for 1st career major

June 21, 2010


Pebble Beach, CA – Graeme McDowell tapped in for par, pumped his fists and looked toward the sky. Then, he exhaled.

The 30-year-old from Northern Ireland had every reason to be relieved.

McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open, closing with a three-over 74 on Sunday that gave him a one-shot victory over Gregory Havret of France.

Hanging on down the stretch, McDowell laid up and made a two-putt par at the 18th hole to clinch the first major championship of his career.

Later, he hugged the U.S. Open trophy close to his chest, the last man standing on a brutal final day at Pebble Beach that chewed up some of the world’s best players.

“I just can’t believe I’m standing here with this thing right now,” said McDowell, who finished at even-par 284 and won $1.35 million. “It’s an absolute dream come true.”

Sunday was a nightmare for so many others.

Dustin Johnson began the day with a three-shot lead but was out of contention by the seventh hole, an epic collapse that included a triple-bogey at No. 2, where he took one of his shots left-handed.

Johnson missed a short putt at the 18th that would have been his only birdie of the day. He finished with a par instead for an 82 that left him five shots back.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson hacked their way out of the championship, too, combining for nine bogeys and just three birdies on a day when simply breaking 70 would have won them the title.

Ernie Els had a share of the lead, but his misadventures included a shot over the grassy cliff at No. 10.

How ugly was the final round? Among the last 24 players on the course, no one broke par.

“The golf course was playing too hard, too fast, and it can get away from you pretty quickly out there,” said Woods, who knew an under-par round would have earned him the championship.

Havret managed a one-over 72 that seemed heroic considering the circumstances, but he slid a seven-foot birdie try past the hole at No. 18 that could have forced a playoff in the end.

Ranked No. 395 in the world, Havret was an unlikely runner-up to McDowell at one-over 285 — especially since the Frenchman holed a 50-foot putt in a qualifier just to make the U.S. Open field.

“I’m a bit disappointed now because I’ve been so close to heaven,” said Havret, who was playing in his first U.S. Open and fourth major overall. “But it’s great for me here, for sure.”

Els played his final 10 holes at five-over par, falling short in his bid for a third U.S. Open crown, and first in 13 years. He shot a 73 to finish two shots back in third place at 286.

Woods made a hard-charging move on Saturday that included a cut three-wood around the cypress tree at No. 18, setting up a birdie that moved him within five shots of the 54-hole lead.

But there weren’t any heroics on Sunday from the man who captured the first of his three U.S. Open titles at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots in 2000. Woods had a 75 and shared fourth place with Mickelson, the five-time U.S. Open runner-up who closed with a 73.

They ended three back at three-over 287.

McDowell won despite making four bogeys and six pars over his final 10 holes. Indeed, the only birdie he made during the round came at the par-three fifth hole, where he drained a putt from about 10 feet.

“I just can’t believe how difficult this golf course was,” McDowell said. “I kept my head down pretty much until about I bogeyed 10, had a little peak at the leaderboard to see what was going on and no one was going crazy. I couldn’t believe it.”

Trusting himself all the way, McDowell hit driver at the 18th hole, the ocean cliffs to his left. He struck his ball past the right side of the fairway and into the rough.

Perhaps trying to calm his nerves, he chatted with a TV camera as he walked toward the fairway, wishing the audience a happy Father’s Day.

After Havret missed his birdie try ahead at the 18th green, McDowell opted to lay up with his second shot, hitting it safely into the fairway about 100 yards from the hole. His approach sailed behind the hole, giving him two putts for the win.

He lagged the first within a foot, then drained the knee-knocker for the win, touching off a celebration that included an embrace with his father.

“Obviously a proud moment to have him here,” the younger McDowell said.

It was a proud moment for Northern Ireland, as well, as McDowell became the first European to capture the U.S. Open since England’s Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine in 1970.

“I think that they might extend drinking hours a little bit tonight,” McDowell said of his home country, where it was about 2:30 in the morning when he wrapped up the win.

Several hours earlier, the tournament was up for grabs as the final players on the course scuffled to make good shots into the narrow Pebble Beach fairways and its rock-hard greens.

Johnson’s start was gut-wrenching. As the two-time defending champion of the PGA Tour’s regular stop at Pebble Beach, the long-hitting 25-year-old had been comfortable through his first 54 holes.

But he lost his three-shot lead at No. 2 when he duffed two shots — including the one he struck left-handed — on the way to a triple-bogey. Johnson hit into a hazard at No. 3 and made double-bogey when he couldn’t find his ball, and he went out-of-bounds and made bogey at No. 4 — a hole he eagled Saturday after driving the green with an iron.

Johnson also bogeyed No. 7, which was playing just 92 yards. He showed a deft touch there on Saturday when the hole was a bit longer at 99 yards, tapping in for a birdie. But the run he made for a third-round 66 was a distant memory Sunday as he scored 16 shots worse.

“I felt sorry for him the way he started,” said McDowell, who played the final two rounds with Johnson. “We’ve all been there.”

The chaos of Johnson’s start — all the waiting and the heartbreak of watching someone throw that many strokes away — gave McDowell some time to collect his thoughts and calm himself down.

Although he was a five-time winner in Europe, including a victory at the Wales Open two weeks ago, McDowell had never won in the United States until Sunday.

“It’s a pretty surreal feeling right now. It hasn’t really sunk in,” said McDowell. “I don’t think I’ve put this thing down since they gave it to me.”

Yes, he was still clinging to the trophy.

NOTES: 60-year-old Tom Watson, who captured his only U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach in 1982, closed with a 76 and tied for 29th place in what may be his final appearance at the year’s second major…Scott Langley (71) and Russell Henley (73) tied for 16th place to share low amateur honors.

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