Graeme McDowell toasts US Open triumph at Pebble Beach
McDowell is the first Northern Irishman to win one of golf's majors since Fred Daly won the 1947 Open Championships
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell says his career has finally taken off after securing his first major with victory at the US Open at Pebble Beach.
The 30-year-old, who ended Europe's 40-year US Open drought, held off France's Gregory Havret to win by one shot.
"Careers are defined by majors and my career's off and running," he said.
"To join Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods as Pebble Beach winners; I'm not quite sure if I belong in that list, but, hey, I'm there now."
McDowell, who had led at halfway, started the final round three shots behind Dustin Johnson and managed to keep his nerve, carding a final round 74 for a level-par total, while his American playing partner imploded with an 11-over par of 82 to slip down to eighth.
Johnson's problems started on the second with a triple bogey seven and he dropped two more shots on the third. McDowell, by contrast, did not drop a shot until the ninth.
"I really stuck to my plan, which was to stay patient, stay calm, and really put some nice calm swings on it and not get sucked in by what the rest of the guys were doing," stated McDowell.
"I did that for about 10 holes. I bogeyed nine and 10, didn't hit a good drive on 11, looked up at the leaderboard and really sort of knuckled down at that point. I was actually really proud of myself.
"I was surprised that Gregory Havret was the guy closest to me. No disrespect to Gregory, he's a great player, but when you have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els obviously there, you're not expecting Gregory Havret to be the guy you've got to fend off."
Nowhere more was McDowell's level-headed approach in evidence than on the last. He teed off on the par-five 18th with a one-shot lead over Havret and after watching the Frenchman miss his birdie putt, he elected to play short of the green with his second shot.
A punched eight-iron left McDowell a 100-yard pitch into the green and he two-putted from 20-feet to seal his par and win his first major at his 19th attempt.
"I had an opportunity to go for 18 in two but made the decision not to do that when he [Havret] didn't make four," he said. "It was a nice, easy five in the end which was thankfully no drama."
McDowell, from Portrush, won the Welsh Open at Celtic Manor two weeks ago, added: "It's a surreal feeling for me but I feel ready to go. I'm playing the golf of my life.
"I'm not sure how much partying I'm going to do over the next three months. "I might catch my friends up with beer next weekend. The Harbor Bar, Portrush, a pint of Guinness. I think there will be a few of those in my future.
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"Probably I should sober up pre-Ryder Cup at some point, but I'm looking forward to celebrating this one and it's a cool feeling."
Havret, ranked 391st in the world going into the tournament, kept his nerve while playing alongside Woods and his one-over par round of 72 was the best of the leading contenders.
"I holed a 50-footer to win a playoff [at Walton Heath] and qualify for here," said Havret. "All of a sudden I'm playing a Sunday with Tiger. It was very exciting. I knew I had some chances and I did everything thinking I was able to win it. It's a shame I came up short.
McDowell's victory toasted at home club Portrush
"I'm very happy for Graeme, it breaks 40 years of [dashed] hopes for Europeans," he said. "I came second, I'm quite happy to, so it's very exciting."
The challenge of world number one Woods failed to materialise as he bogeyed five of his first 10 holes on his way to a four-over par 75 and a tie for fourth with Mickelson. "I made three mental mistakes," he stated. "The only thing it cost me was a chance to win the US Open."
Mickelson, who could have taken over at the top of the rankings had he won, also failed to capitalise, ending with a 73 and a three-over par total, after getting himself into a decent position.
"I thought when I made that [birdie] putt on the first hole, it was going to be a great day," said Mickelson. "And when Dustin made a triple it was a wide open tournament.
"At the turn, I was still under par for my round and even par for the tournament, which was ultimately the winning score. All I had to do was shoot even par in the back, and I'm in a play-off."
And in reference to his five second-place finishes in the US Open, Mickelson added: "I'm glad that it wasn't a second, but obviously I wanted to win."
South Africa's Ernie Els also had a shot at the title and briefly shared the lead with McDowell at three-under par, but he left his approach to the par-four ninth short and went on to bogey five of the last 10 holes to finish third on two-over par.
McDowell's victory lifts him from 37th to 13th in the world rankings.
He is the first European to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine in 1970 and only the second Northern Irishman to win a major, following Fred Daly's victory at the Open in 1947.
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