Father’s Day 2010 will continue to be forever remembered in the history of Irish golf.
It was on this day nine years ago that Graeme McDowell jubilantly embraced his father, Kenny as one of Ireland’s Major champions in capturing the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
It was a continuation of a golden period in Irish golf and a list of achievements in an eight-year time frame that never may be repeated.
McDowell’s victory along the Pacific Ocean shoreline was the fourth of nine Major Championship victories for the Emerald Isle nation, commencing with Padraig Harrington’s three wins and followed by Rory McIlroy capturing the U.S. Open a year after his Ulster colleague.
Darren Clarke made it consecutive Majors in the hands of an Irish-born golfer for a second occasion in lifting the Claret Jug at Royal St. George’s ahead of McIlroy going on to win The Open (2014) and a pair of PGA Championship titles (2012 & 2014).
McDowell has returned to Pebble Beach on three occasions since his victory, each time for the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he admits the time has flown since that fateful day nine years ago at Pebble.
“Firstly, I can’t believe it’s been nine years,” said McDowell.
“I first went back there for the 2014 AT&T with my Dad (Kenny – finished T7th) and then last year (missed cut) and this year with Ed (Brown). I played with Chris Sullivan last year and obviously Ed this year.
“This is such a fun event, especially as Ed and I have become really good friends. We played last year’s Dunhill Links together and it’s a great week. It’s like the Dunhill and if the weather is good here, it is one of those greatest weeks of the year.
“Pebble Beach, whether it be a U.S. Open or an AT&T Pro-Am, is one of the greatest walks of the year. So, of course, I am excited to be going back there.
“I am excited to be going back to Pebble and a U.S. Open as it’s nice to be part of the lore of such a place like Pebble. I still pinch myself every time I have walked around Pebble since that Father’s Day in 2010, and still to this day also thinking to myself I won a U.S. Open at Pebble and how cool is that.
“Hey, you don’t appreciate it at the time but coming back year-after-year, and you get a bit older and you get a bit more retrospective, it’s cool to be part of the lore.”
McDowell had been three shots behind third round leader Dustin Johnson heading to the final day, with ‘DJ’, who looked unbeatable for the prior three rounds, about to implode. It was something McDowell didn’t envisage.
“DJ’s round on the Saturday is still probably one of the best rounds, to this day, I have ever seen,” said McDowell.
“It was breezy and a Pebble Beach U.S. Open style Saturday and he shot 66 on the first occasion I was playing with him.
“I walked off scratching my head wondering what I just saw, thinking this kid was special. In a funny way, it took the pressure off me because on that Saturday night I slept really well because all the pressure was on DJ. If the same guy who shot 66 on Saturday shows up on Sunday then I am not going to catch him anyway.
“Then he takes a treble at the second and loses a ball on three and I am standing-up on the green waiting for him to go back to the tee and I looked around and realised I was leading the U.S. Open again.
“I played the first eight holes flawlessly. I then bogeyed nine and 10 and it was a panic moment. But I n walking from the 10th green to the 11th tee, I looked-up at the leaderboard as I needed to know where I stood, and then I realised everyone was having a really tough day.
“It was Sunday at Pebble and it was very difficult, and I still had a two-shot lead at the time and it was time for that mental re-setting of my mind and I then played solidly enough on the back nine.”
What may seem bizarre is that when GMac was asked, if Pebble Beach were to put down a plaque for a key shot during that 2010 U.S. Open triumph, McDowell singled out, not a chip-in eagle or holing a monster putt, but a 7-iron shot that led to a bogey.
“The most important shot I hit on the back nine on Sunday was my third shot into the 14th, but that led to a bogey, so no organiser is going to arrange to place down a plaque for a shot that led to a bogey,” he said smiling.
“I thought at the time that is the best 7-iron I could hit and I thought to myself walking off that if I can hit that shot right now under those circumstance back in 2010, then I could get this done today.
“Mentally, no-one will really understand how big that shot was for me at the time as I played the 15th beautifully, hitting a wedge in there to 15-feet and I thought I made the putt but it lipped-out.
“I then played 16 really solidly and then I kind of felt on 17 a win could be on and I was really in ‘go’ territory and I hit a great drive down the last. Kenny (Comboy – caddy) said I had 227-yards to the flag on 18, if I needed to go for the green but then I only needed a ‘5’, so I decided to lay-up.”
Of course, for those present at Pebble Beach and for the Irish sitting-up back home at around 2.30am on now Monday morning Irish time, it was the scenes at the 18th that we will forever remember, with McDowell throwing his arms triumphantly into the air and the emotion of embracing his proud father, Kenny.
Could any father have asked for a better Father’s Day reward than seeing his own son become a U.S. Open winner?
“Emotionally, I don’t think that moment will be beaten in my career,” he said.
“Though I am not going to put Pebble up there on a pedestal and say, ‘that is the highlight of my career,’ because I want more. I want more Pebbles. I still want more Major Championships.”
And as for the gleaming U.S. Open trophy, is there a day that goes by when at home that McDowell doesn’t look at it and be reminded of his efforts on that Father’s Day afternoon nine years ago?
“The trophy sits in my office. We had it the kitchen for a little while. I Instagrammed the photo as we were watching Brooks win at Erin Hills (2017 US Open) and my girls were there watching the golf on TV, so I went and grabbed the trophy and brought it into the kitchen just to remind them I have won a U.S. Open, just like Brooks! It stayed in the kitchen for a while but it’s now back in the office.
“The only thing I did buy myself, apart from a few replicas of the trophy, was a painting of the ninth and 10th holes with the ocean in the background, and it’s the picture I look at every day when I’m in my office.
“It’s me hitting my second shot at nine on the Sunday where I went on to make a bogey but while it was a weird-looking shot, it has the iconic background but it’s more about the picture. It had been a photograph initially and I remember looking at it and thinking that is just cool, so I had an artist come out and do the painting of the photograph.”