McDowell ends European drought with US Open win
Pebble Beach: Britain`s Graeme McDowell held his nerve in tough scoring conditions to end a 40-year title drought by Europeans at the U.S. Open with a gutsy one-shot victory on Sunday.
Three strokes behind his American playing partner Dustin Johnson going into the final round, the Northern Irishman ground out a three-over-par 74 at a breezy Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Despite dropping three shots on the more difficult back nine as the winds strengthened in the late afternoon, McDowell kept his cool to post a level total of 284.
The 30-year-old from Portrush parred the final hole to clinch his maiden major title, and Europe`s first U.S. Open since Briton Tony Jacklin won the 1970 edition at Hazeltine.
"It`s so difficult to win a golf tournament, let alone a major," a beaming McDowell said greenside after kissing the silver trophy and then cradling it like a baby.
"I`m just so thrilled to get over the line. A few pints of Guinness will probably go down around now," he said of his fans back in Northern Ireland watching on television.
Frenchman Gregory Havret, who came through 36 holes of sectional qualifying last month to book his place at Pebble Beach, closed with a 72 to secure second place at one over in his first U.S. Open.
Double U.S. Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa was a further stroke back after carding a 73 with world number one Tiger Woods (75) and fellow American Phil Mickelson (73) tied for fourth at three over.
McDowell, winner of the European Tour`s Wales Open two weeks ago, took advantage of a nightmare start by Johnson to take control of the final round.
Johnson, who has won the last two PGA Tour events staged at Pebble Beach, began the day with a commanding three-stroke lead which he spectacularly threw away by dropping seven shots in six holes.
He triple-bogeyed the par-five second after taking three shots to escape thick grass above a greenside bunker and double-bogeyed the third after a hooked tee shot led to a lost ball.
Two behind McDowell at that point, he went on to bogey the par-four fourth after pushing his tee shot into the ocean before going on to card a disappointing 82 for a share of eighth place at five-over 289.
McDowell, who made a series of clutch putts to save par whenever needed on the front nine, picked up his only birdie of the day when he knocked in a 10-footer at the par-three fifth.
However he bogeyed the tricky par-four ninth, the second hole in the stretch dubbed "Cliffs of Doom," after finding a greenside bunker with his approach to reach the turn in level-par 35.
Although he dropped further shots at the 10th, 14th and 17th, he was given welcome breathing space when his closest challenger, Havret, also bogeyed the 17th to remain a stroke behind.
Havret narrowly missed a birdie putt from nine feet on the 18th green, and McDowell safely parred the hole after laying up with his third shot and two-putting.