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McDowell takes down the big names playing his own game

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Iain Carter | 08:42 UK time, Monday, 21 June 2010

All you ever want to be in any golf tournament is the last man standing and that's who Graeme McDowell became as he closed out Europe's first US Open victory in 40 years.

There wasn't a spectacular moment that clinched it, this was a triumph of composure and nerve. He hung on to a lead to win by one shot while the best in the world floundered in their bids to overhaul the man from Portrush in Northern Ireland.

It was only around the turn in the final round at Pebble Beach that McDowell first glanced at a leaderboard. He was shocked. He had thought he needed to be doing more to be on top.

Dustin Johnson, the overnight leader, had already shown he wasn't ready to make the giant step into the land of major winners with his capitulation at the second and third holes. His three stroke lead heading into the final round disappeared in the blink of a disbelieving eye as he triple bogeyed the second and double bogeyed the third.

McDowell witnessed the meltdown first hand and felt sympathy. He also recognised that opportunity was knocking and after a steady start the one birdie of his final round duly arrived at the short fifth to put him in control of the tournament.

But where were the big guns? Tiger Woods couldn't capitalise on his third round 66, Phil Mickelson was in a constant struggle with his game and Ernie Els, after a fast start began to implode around the turn.

Incredibly, as the back nine unfolded it was a player ranked only just inside the world's top 400 who proved McDowell's biggest threat. How is it that Gregory Havret with his beautifully rhythmic swing is not a bigger fish in the golfing pond?

It's an utter mystery. The Frenchman has beaten Mickelson in a play-off to win the Scottish Open and now he has beaten Woods by three shots in the final round of the US Open with the title on the line.

But McDowell wasn't intimidated by the name Havret on the leaderboard, he always felt it would be Woods, Mickelson or Els who would need to be overcome. The Ulsterman didn't reckon on them beating themselves, which is effectively what happened.

Woods could only card a 75, Els came home in 40 and Mickelson 39. How they will rue these closing rounds at the second major of the year.

Havret remained remarkably composed and ultimately it was his inability to get up and down from the sand on the last two holes that cost the likable Frenchman. His stats aren't good in this department and they left ajar the door for McDowell.

McDowell celebrates his win
McDowell celebrates his memorable win at Pebble Beach

But, as so many near misses for home players remind us, when it comes to majors it is not always easy to take advantage of such opportunities. It is a cliche, but fortune favours the brave and McDowell did show the mettle required to land one of the game's big four titles.

And he received a vital break at the 14, where his putt from off the right of the green up the steep slope to the plateau where the hole lay just hung on. One more revolution and it would have been away down the slope on the other side.

As we covered the Championship on BBC Radio 5 live, summariser Jay Townsend called it McDowell's "Fred Couples moment", alluding to the occasion when Freddie's ball crucially defied gravity at the 12th at Augusta en route to victory.

This time it meant that the 30-year-old could remain in front coming down the stretch. It became a time for composure and the recent winner of the Wales Open showed it in abundance.

At the treacherous 17th he played a splendid bunker shot that took the ominous threat of a five out of the equation and then at the last, steered by his superb caddie Ken Comboy, McDowell was able to make all the correct decisions.

Knowing that Havret had not made birdie from the greenside bunker, the champion laid up to the perfect position, wedged on and a regulation two putts gave him this much cherished victory.

Nothing spectacular, but a stunning result to allow him to tread in the footsteps of Tony Jacklin, who 40 years earlier at Hazeltine was the last European to win America's national championship.

And how appropriate that a UK player has broken through in this event after four decades in which the likes of Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood have come so close to success in this elusive championship.

McDowell's win caps an unprecedented hat-trick of home victories on American soil in the last three weeks. First Justin Rose at the Memorial, then Westwood in Memphis and now to Irish delight he joins the stellar cast list of Pebble Beach US Open Champions.

"Think of the winners here," McDowell said. "Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods and now me," he added with a smile to offer a nice line in self-deprecation.

Let's not forget also the wins of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy on American soil this year. It is turning into a vintage period that must delight European Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie.

McDowell, who is now up to 13th in the world rankings, is nailed on for a place in Monty's team. He has leapfrogged the current generation of home players who had been thought more likely to make the major breakthrough sooner.

But surely this result will serve to embolden Westwood, Paul Casey, Poulter, Luke Donald and McDowell's great friend from Northern Ireland, McIlroy.

It is time for "anything you can do....." to become the motto of European golf to turn this into a truly golden era for the continent in the biggest championships.

McDowell has shown there is nothing to fear. Keep playing your own game, trust it and you might just find that the big boys aren't quite as good as you thought.

That's how it panned out at Pebble Beach and that why McDowell was indeed that last man standing.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great win, and I'm glad it was one of the "quiet" men of British golf, not one of the English psychobabble self-talk "I am good enough to win a Major" brigade! - You know who they are.......

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    He seems like a really good lad - great player and ditched his old party ways of the past to knuckle down and work on his game. Ryder Cup will be a classic encounter this time around.

  • Comment number 4.

    Brilliant win, he's now lived up to his potential. GMac is a world class player when he's on his game and should have won more titles than he has done in his career to date, after being a prolific winner on the US college circuit. When he's hot, he can shoot lower than anyone, and real birdie machine. I look forward to seeing him win regularly on tour from now on.

  • Comment number 5.

    Confidence is not arrogance you know.

    Graeme could do with losing a few pounds off his middle and getting a bit fitter too.

    He appears to have the right type of concentration and relaxed style of play to go further.

    Very uplifting for Ulster golf together with Rory , lets hope both reach the top stay healthy and be happy.

  • Comment number 6.

    Go on GMac! So good to see you come through and against a top quality leaderboard. Your final round showed us all how tough you are and the way you grinded it out reminded me a little of Faldo's first major at Muirfield in '87. I'm sure there are as many out there for you as he had. Congratulations mate.

  • Comment number 7.

    Brilliant stuff, Graeme, well done. Majors for Europeans are rare things these days, and all the sweeter for it when they happen.

    Sports Personality of the Year is in the bag, I reckon, unless the football team or Murray can deliver some glory in the coming fortnight. In other words - start practicing your speech now, Graeme.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good blog Iain, first of all, congrats to Graeme, he thoroughly deserved it.

    He's not the most talented golfer in the world, he's not the best athlete but what McDowell has in abundance is mental strength and composure.

    To have Woods, Mickleson, Els the big hitting Johnson (who had 11 consecutive good rounds at Pebble going into the last round) knocking on your door, took some serious composure not to be intimidated. He believes that he belongs in that company, he believes that if he plays well he can beat anyone. How many of the current Europeans have that belief?

    In short, "Don't believe the hype". I agree, this could be the most important win in European golf since Sandy Lyle's Masters in 1988. Let's hope so.

    Tiger is realising how dificult it is to win a major, Phil and Ernie are getting on a bit (not past it by any means, but...)the door is open for the Europeans, thanks to GMAC for opening it.

    Come on lads!! Next stop St. Andrews.

  • Comment number 9.

    Why, Oh Why did this wonderful achievement not make top billing on the sports news. I am so fed up with glum faces (football) and more to come when Murray is knocked out of Wimbledon. We need cheering up. I am pleased to say I have Graeme's autograph and that of McElroy given to me at the National in Augusta. They are both very, very nice people. Next stop for both St. Andrews. Graeme must lift the Sports Personality of the Year award. Crying shame if he doesn't.

    One can't help but wonder however if an Englishman had held the US Open cup high yesterday would it have got top news billing, maybe even pushing the budget into second. We will never know!!

    Allison

  • Comment number 10.

    Ian, nice blog and a fantastic win for McDowell - brilliant to have a Brit winning - but why, oh why, is he being fetted as the first "European" winner for 40+ years and not the first BRITISH winner?!!! It was the same yesterday with Ben Dirs running the live commentary and using the European Union flag instead of the British flag.

    I am sure if Graeme was Scots, Welsh, or especially, English he would be being celebrated as British and be the headline news on the sports and news pages of this site - has the BBC suddenly decided Northern Ireland is no longer part of the UK and its citizens no longer British?

    And yes I am English!

  • Comment number 11.

    Graeme is a proud Irishman and represented us at the world cup, anybody who stayed up late enough to hear is speech afterwards will acknowledge that, he was amazed at the amount of support he was getting off the Irish....

  • Comment number 12.

    Re: wrekin 1410

    I don't think it is political, it's just that the Ryder Cup is so important that we are all european in golf.

    Get your heads around this, McDowell is the first European, British and Irish winner of the US Open in 40 years!

    And yes, I'm from Norn Irelan!

  • Comment number 13.

    Good call to No. 12.

  • Comment number 14.

    wrekin1410

    probably because northern ireland is not part of britain. however it is part of the uk. so european seems a good call as opposed to united kingdomish, yeugh.

  • Comment number 15.

    Although I do think that the English players have lacked the guts to win down the stretch and seem to bottle it too many times.

    I'm thinking Casey, Poulter & Westwood : Gmac has now entered the Padraig Harrington league, A MAJOR WINNER.

  • Comment number 16.

    Wrekin.....good thing that you are not using your real name because I think that you just said that people from Northern Ireland aren't British?

    Stick to your golf knowledge, mate.

  • Comment number 17.

    Sorry Wrekin...it was Primitive showing off his geographical political prowess.

  • Comment number 18.

    Good blog Iain, and just the right upbeat tone.

    But as for your point about finding out the big boys aren't quite as good as you thought - I'd be interested to hear Lee Westwood's view after the Masters! He played well throughout and just found that Mickelson really can be that good.

    The big names choked a little on the last day yesterday, but take nothing away from GMac - held his nerve when it mattered and fully deserved his win.

  • Comment number 19.

    Well done G Mac, he played really well, especially under the pressure from being at or near the top of the leaderboard for most of the tournament.

    I watched it all and i dont think I even spotted his trademark "wink" after every interview !

    What a Ryder Cup team in prospect !

    And what about Sergio attacking the tee marker !

  • Comment number 20.

    Brilliant ,gutsy win.
    Completely different in content from McIlroy's win a few weeks ago
    (in which I thought he touched perfection)
    But even more thrilling given the higher stakes
    This has been a great season in the US for UK/Irish/European golf
    Roll on Celtic Manor!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Absolutly fantastic stuff for British and Northern Irish (along with other Celts?) golf.
    Though I would argue the reason the other golfers say "I am good enough to win a major" - is because they keep being asked "Can you win a major" - what are they meant to say, no?
    McDowell has been a fine player for a long time and deserves this success. Hopefully some of the other guys can follow suit now and start decorating the golf scene with European glory.

  • Comment number 22.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 23.

    Great,grinding,gutsy,glorious game and result for Graeme!
    At 2.15am Monday, many of us groaned "Oh, no, work in a few hours!" However, now that we're all recovered yet still celebrating, it was all truly worth it.
    What a statement before and for the Ryder Cup!
    If we in Scotland were celebrating, how are they rocking in Graeme's hometown?
    Well done for all the coverage too.
    Brian.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm not sure if wrekin1410 is just trying to wind up a few people here but anyone that lives on the continent of Europe is obviously European and to be the first European to win since Tony Jacklin (English, British and European!) simply highlights what an incredible achievement Graeme's victory was last weak. All of Ireland is proud of you Graeme and it is was a great win for the European tour. Well done and you have proved to have what it takes to win a major and I'm sure you'll win more! A great attitude and manner as well!

  • Comment number 25.

    Oh this is a surprise! How did I know there would be arguement over where he comes from, come on change the record it's booooooring!

    Can you not all just enjoy his win? the fact he's European, British, Northen Irish, Irish, a UK resident, from Ulster, from Ulster Way Street Ulster, Portrush blah blah blah leave it out!!!

    ...and for the record I am Italian before you start!

  • Comment number 26.

    One of the most boring records that is in dire need of a change is listeneing to you, Ezio, telling us about how much you don't rate Graeme McDowell.

    Too bad for you, eh?

  • Comment number 27.

    That is right Golf_Geezer, I did not think he had it in him, but did you miss the bit where I congratulated him and said how well he done to see it through? Thought not, just want to make a comment on the other bit though eh?

  • Comment number 28.

    Well said on the Nationality issue signora Ezio.

  • Comment number 29.

    Absolutely brilliant, I watched the whole thing which was tremendously exciting. What made it extra special was that Graham had Tiger, Phil and Ernie right behind him, yet kept his composure whilst Dustin Johnson fell apart, a great moment for British Golf, lets hope for a repeat at St Andrews next month! Congratulations Graham, super job!

  • Comment number 30.

    Well done Graeme McDowell!

    It was quite amusing when he lagged his approach putt up on the last, it all went quiet, felt a bit surreal, I don't think Graeme realised what he had just done until his caddy came over to him!

  • Comment number 31.

    Well happy for greame Mcdowell, It was great to see that it was 2 europeans keeping composed on Sunday. Love the way Mcdowell plays the game, as he plays golf his way. European Golf looking very strong at the moment.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm Scottish and I wouldn't care if one of our own was reported as being from the moon if he won a major! Unfortunately I don't think I'll have that problem for a long time.... Why do some people have to get political? The guy has achieved a phenomenal accomplishment and that's all that matters.

 

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