x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Steady McDowell ends Europe's wait for US Open title

Graeme McDowell credits his even temperament for helping him become the first European winner since 1970.

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland celebrates with the trophy on the 18th green after winning the 110th US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland celebrates with the trophy on the 18th green after winning the 110th US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

US Open champion Graeme McDowell credited his even temperament for seeing him through a dramatic final day at Pebble Beach. McDowell, 30, held his nerve at the famous California links to end a 40-year European drought at the US Open and 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 Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods as 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 crumbled 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 others, 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 No 37, almost did 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 falling 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 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 playing 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." * PA