We’ve always been quick to bash the Brits when they claim credit for an Irish success, so US Open champion Graeme McDowell’s emphasis of his Irishness – despite being an Ulster Protestant – gets us off that particular patriotic hook. Happily, the divide between the six counties and the 26 is getting smaller by the day.
A graduate of the University of Alabama, McDowell dominated the college scene in the States before turning pro eight years ago, setting records that surpassed those of some of the game’s all-time greats along the way and acquiring one of the more curious accents on any tour.
After his sensational round on Saturday, Tiger Woods was being tipped to finally win one of ‘the big four’ when trailing with 18 holes to go. If he had it would have been the ultimate Father’s Day irony. As it happened, 30-year-old ‘G-Mac’ had the pleasure of sharing his moment of first-major glory with dad Kenny, who embraced him with the words “You’re some kid!” Indeed.
Remarkably the pride of Portrush had never been to Pebble Beach before he showed up there with his gameface on last week. McDowell, who, you suspect, has benefited from the emergence of fellow Northerner Rory McIlroy, left California as the only individual from this island to win the US Open and the most recent European since Tony Jacklin in 1970. (And, to my knowledge, he’s the first person to win any major with designer stubble on his face.)
With big-hitting Dustin Johnson going into meltdown from the minute he set foot on the first tee on Sunday, the County Antrim native withstood his share of bogey blows to maintain his focus down to the very last putt, making par to beat unflappable Frenchman Gregory Havret by just a single shot, with Ernie Els, Woods, and Phil Mickelson all among the nearly men.
With typical self-absorption, Woods moaned that “three mental errors” had cost him a tie for a play-off, while Mickelson more graciously said he wasn’t surprised McDowell had held it together. “There’s not too many bad golfers on this trophy,” the winner reflected after having his name engraved alongside the likes of that consummate past-champion, Tom Watson. True. But there’s the odd bad sport.
FOOTNOTE: Ex-Castle junior Kevin Phelan proudly flagged his Déise credentials during his two-round experience at Pebble Beach (not the Tramore holiday homes), with the starter announcing the Florida-based amateur as being ‘from Waterford, Ireland’. Having been level par for his first six holes, unfortunately the wheels came off over the back nine on Thursday and an 82, followed by a much-improved 75 – the same score McDowell carded on Sunday – saw Kevin’s hopes of making the cut go west. He was in some excellent company mind, with the toughest links course in the world wrecking scorecards with no regard for reputation. The 19-year-old student has alerted the GUI to be aware that he’d love to represent Ireland at the home internationals in Ashburnham, Wales next