It has been nearly eight years and while Graeme McDowell admits his memory is fading slightly in recalling all the shots he played to win the 2010 U.S. Open there is still a handful of key shots he will never forget from that week at Pebble Beach.
McDowell has returned to Pebble Beach after accepting an invitation to contest this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Eight years ago this June, McDowell two-putted the 72nd hole for par on Father’s Day to add his name to the Hall of Fame list of Major champions at the legendary course.
Fittingly, in a championship where a score of par is the most meaningful, the then 30-year-old McDowell posted an even-par 284 to become the first European winner of the championship since England’s Tony Jacklin in 1970.
McDowell’s rounds of 71-68-71-74 left him one stroke ahead of France’s Grégory Havret, who was playing in his first U.S. Open, two clear of South Africa’s Ernie Els, and three ahead of the two top-ranked players in the world, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who tied for fourth at 287.
McDowell was two off the lead on day one and then two clear heading to day three before Dustin Johnson made his presence felt to shoot a 66 and lead McDowell by three and Tiger Woods by five who was in third place at one-under par.
DJ buckled under a final round of 82 and with McDowell watching Havret bogey the last that then led him to decide to lay-up and eventually two-putt for a winning par.
“It is a long time ago now what eight years but then in 2014 my dad and I returned here to Pebble Beach to play alongside each other so that was very special,” said McDowell at a Mastercard hosted function Wednesday ahead of this week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“The start of the final day was so dramatic as to what happened to Dustin and (triple-bogey the second and then doubled the third hole) probably overshadowed how I played the first eight holes as I played them in one-under which in the conditions of a U.S. Open final round was pretty strong.
“I then made bogey on 10 with a 9-iron in my hand and then made bogey from the middle of the fairway on 11 and then I remember walking to the 12th tee and felt I was letting it slip from my grasp.
“But then I looked-up at the board and noticed everyone was struggling including Tiger and I thought to myself ‘alright dude, this is just hard so just get your head back on and start playing good golf again’.
“I remember one shot in particular and it led to a bogey funny enough as I hit a good tee shot at the par-5 14th but it caught the top of a bunker and I had to lay-up and I hit a 7-iron for my third shot and it was as good a 7-iron I could hit and I remember thinking to myself after I had hit that shot that maybe you can win this.
“That shot was out of the top shelf for me and then I put one over the back and made a pretty good ‘6’ from there in the end but it reaffirmed to me that I had the fortitude to be able to hit the remaining shots down the stretch I needed to hit to win the U.S. Open.
And if the USGA was to place a plaque on the Pebble Beach course to commemorate the standout shot of McDowell ‘s round where would that be?
“I would go to say you could place a plaque at the spot where I hit that 7-iron shot or you could say there could be one on 18 as it was interesting playing 18 on Sunday as they had two tee positions that week on 18,” he said.
“They had a back tee and hitting off the back tee I was not able to get past the two trees and, of course, there is now only the one tree on the fairway but back in 2010 there was two trees and I could not get past either hitting off the back tee.
“So, I was concerned in playing driver off the back tee I was flirting too much with the two trees and maybe causing trouble, so I was hitting 2-iron off the back tee and playing the hole as a true three-shotter into the green.
“But then on Sunday we played off the forward tee and my strategy from that tee was blow my driver past the two trees.
“I stood on the 18th tee that final day with a one-shot lead and while it would have been nice to lay-up and take the stress off my tee-shot, I had Gregory Havret in front of me and he makes ‘4’ I also need a ‘4’ to win.
“So, I hit drive, and while my thought process was not to hit this left, I had great target as the marquee in place this week down the 18th is exactly in the same spot and eight years ago my target was the apex of the marquee.
“I hit a really, really good tee shot and had a great lie to go for the green in two but when Gregory walked off with a bogey I laid it up and was able to somehow make a ‘5’and win the U.S. Open.
“So, if there was a plaque to be put in place I am not really sure where you would put it.
“You might put it in Brophy’s Tavern (smiling)”.
Brophy’s Irish Tavern is located in the heart of close-by Carmel and it was where McDowell was celebrating his success to around 1am the next morning.
But that is a story for another article.