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McDowell wins amazing U.S. Open
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Forsyth County News
It took an unassuming Irishman to bring Pebble Beach to its knees in the U.S. Open golf championship.

“To win at Pebble Beach, to join the names Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods, me — wow!” Graeme McDowell exclaimed at the post-tournament press conference. “I’m not quite sure if I belong in that list, but, hey! I’m there now! It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”

Amazing seems the perfect word to describe this Open. First and foremost, how amazing was it that McDowell alone reached a détente with the devilish mistress Pebble Beach? He, alone, out of the entire field, failed to play over par.

McDowell alone failed to challenge the course, but merely tried to hold his own. “This golf course is extremely difficult,” he told Steve DiMeglio of USA Today. “It’s just tough to make birdies. And if you go chasing, then you really get into so much trouble.”

McDowell never chased birdies, but stayed within himself throughout the tournament. He shot a second round 68, sandwiched between two even par 71s.

He didn’t give away strokes until the back nine on Sunday, when he shot a 39. But by then, the entire field had advanced so far to the rear that McDowell had the luxury of needing only a par on the final hole to secure the win.

Phil Mickelson’s performance proved every bit as amazing as McDowell’s. Mickelson staggered through an opening round 75 in which he made nary a birdie. So, naturally, he came out Friday and shot an electrifying 66, which included a 31 on the front nine, which included a bogey on the ninth hole.

Mickelson finished Friday one-under for the tournament, and upon completing his round, invoked the memory of one Bobby Jones. “Mr. Jones was right; you play this tournament against Old Man Par, and if you stay right around par, you’ll have a chance to win.”

Amazingly, Mickelson would fail to follow his own advice, and Pebble exacted its revenge. He spent the final 36 holes in constant scramble mode, shot a pair of 73s, and finished fourth.

And his post-tournament comment confirmed that he had missed the point: “It was anybody’s ballgame. I had a number of opportunities to get well under par, and I didn’t do it.”

Nor did he need to. If he just plays the final 36 holes in even par, he wins his first Open championship.

Mickelson finished tied with his nemesis, Tiger Woods. Amazingly, their Opens played out in remarkably similar fashion, perhaps the only time they’ve ever done anything in similar mode.

Woods, exhibiting the rust that comes with myriad personal issues detracting from his focus on golf, shot lackluster rounds of 74 and 72 to open the tournament.

Then came the big tease, the third round 66 that propelled him onto the leaderboard and into a false sense of security about his game.

Amazingly, not even the great Woods can turn it on and off at will. He managed to bogey half of the first 10 holes he played on Sunday en route to a rotund 75, and that was that.

He was back in fine, terse form after the round, noting that three mental mistakes, challenging the course, had cost him the tournament. Odd that he’s still so surly, now that he’s just another player.

Pebble exacted its most amazing revenge on poor Dustin Johnson. Pebble beguiled him into a nice comfort zone, allowing him two victories in the last two National Pro-Ams and refusing to bite back after he coasted through the first three rounds.

After his flawless, calm 66 on Saturday left him at six-under and three shots clear of the field, everyone wondered how well he’d handle Sunday’s Open pressure.

Not well. He stood in the second fairway with a wedge in his hand after an awesome drive, still three shots ahead. By the time he staggered off the fourth green, he was three shots behind. At least he made history; his final round 82 was the highest score by a 54-hole leader since 1911.

How rattled was Johnson? He told Gene Wojciechowski of, “I felt like I held it together pretty good.”

Amazingly, Johnson’s travails had a calming influence on his playing partner, McDowell.

“Dustin got off to a really bad start,” McDowell told David Shefter of the USGA. “After the way he played yesterday, I thought if the same guy turned up today, he was going to be really tough to beat.

“I really tried to stay calm on the back nine, and I really did. I did a great job of it.”

That was Graeme McDowell staying calm — not Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods, not anyone else in the field.