US Open countdown: Steady Graeme McDowell takes advantage of Dustin Johnson’s final-round meltdown

110th U.S. Open/June 17-20, 2010

Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.


Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland 71 - 68 - 71 - 74 284
Gregory Havret, France 73 - 71 - 69 - 72 285
Ernie Els, South Africa 73 - 68 - 72 - 73 286
Phil Mickelson, United States 75 - 66 - 73 - 73 287
Tiger Woods, United States 74 - 72 - 66 - 75 287

Many thought it would be the 20-something “kid” from Northern Ireland — superstar-in-the-making Rory McIlroy — who would break his country’s longstanding majors drought.

Turns out the native land was in good hands with Graeme McDowell.

Benefiting from a monumental meltdown by overnight leader Dustin Johnson, McDowell became the first European to win a U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin at Hazeltine National Golf Club in 1970.

He also became the second Northern Irishman to capture a major title: Fred Daly was the first at the 1947 British Open.

It wasn’t McDowell’s finest round of golf, but perhaps under the cool conditions and high-pressure circumstances it was one of his steadiest.

Which is not the word used to describe what Johnson was doing in the early part of his final round. Starting with a three-shot advantage, the long hitter from South Carolina couldn’t escape the rough alongside the second hole, scoring a triple bogey 7.

A hole later, he made a double bogey — and disappeared entirely after a 10-over 82, the highest score a 54-hole leader had produced since 1911. He finished tied for eighth.

Meanwhile, McDowell, a Portrush native, had two birdies and a bogey on the front nine and suddenly found himself in the lead.

Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods all made strong surges but fell back with critical back-nine bogeys — or in Els’ case, a double bogey at the 10th hole.

Coming down the stretch, the only man who had a chance to catch McDowell was Gregory Havret, a European Tour colleague who was playing in his first U.S. Open. Havret was ranked 391st in the world coming into the national open.

Havret had a 12-foot putt for birdie on the finishing hole, a par 5, to tie for the lead. He badly missed it for a 72.

Despite dropping three shots on the back, all McDowell needed to win was to make par on the 18th hole, which he did to become a major champion.

“I think I’ve died and gone to heaven, for sure,” McDowell said.

The USGA awarded Tom Watson a special exemption to play in this U.S. Open — the site of his dramatic 1982 victory.