McDowell holds on wins US Open

By Associated PressJune 21, 2010, 7:57 am

2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – There was the group of players he beat and the group of players he joined.

With his whole career in front of him and a U.S. Open title behind him, 30-year-old Graeme McDowell now goes about trying to be remembered more as the guy who knocked off Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els and not merely the latest on an eclectic list of surprising champions at golf’s most unpredictable major.

McDowell played a fourth straight round of unflappable golf Sunday at Pebble Beach and held off the sport’s fearsome threesome to prove, yet again, that a great track record guarantees nothing when it comes to the U.S. Open.

He shot 3-over-par 74 to finish the tournament at even-par 284 and beat Frenchman Gregory Havret, the 391st-ranked player in the world, by a stroke. But it was the way McDowell kept the Big Three in his rearview mirror all day long that was so impressive. Els finished two shots behind, while Woods and Mickelson were another shot back, tied for fourth.


Graeme McDowell
McDowell shot 74 Sunday to win the U.S. Open by one. (Getty Images)
“Just very proud of myself the way I handled myself this week,” McDowell said, after becoming the first European to win America’s championship since Tony Jacklin in 1970. “And I just can’t believe I have `Major Champion’ after my name from now on. It’s a special feeling.”


McDowell, from Northern Ireland, was also helped by the stunning collapse of Dustin Johnson, who also was in search of his first major. Johnson led McDowell by three coming into the day. He gave that away and more by making 7, 6 and 5 on Nos. 2, 3 and 4 en route to an 82 – an afterthought who simply tried to stay out of McDowell’s way on the back nine.

“As soon as Dustin made a triple, it was a wide open tournament,” Mickelson said. “Many guys had a chance.”

McDowell took advantage. He joined Geoff Ogilvy, Michael Campbell and Lucas Glover among the list of players who have used the U.S. Open to surprisingly break into the major-champion’s category. And that’s just the list from the last decade. The U.S. Open, with it’s punishing rough, dry greens and close-to-the-edge setups – all of which turned Pebble Beach into a beautiful monster this week – proclaims itself to be the toughest test in golf.

It is, as this year’s winning score of even par attests to, and because of that, it is a tournament that’s every bit as likely to produce a Tiger Woods or Ernie Els as a champion as a Graeme McDowell or a Gregory Havret.

“When you have Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els there, you’re not expecting Gregory Havret to be the guy you’ve got to fend off,” McDowell said.

As it turned out, Havret was the closest competition. But when he bogeyed the par-3 17th, then failed to make birdie on the par-5 18th, all McDowell had to do was hit three shots to the green on 18, then two-putt from 20 feet to seal his victory.

He made only one birdie Sunday – an eight-foot putt on the fifth hole, and his final round was the highest score by a U.S. Open champion since Andy North in 1985.

“I can’t believe I’m standing with this right now,” McDowell said, posing with the silver trophy. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve been dreaming it all my life. Two putts to win the U.S. Open. Can’t believe it happened.”

He did it with four straight days of golf that leaned more toward steady than flashy.

Woods and Mickelson, meanwhile, were the ones who put the `Wow’ into the Open, and with the resurgence of Els, there was plenty of star power – three of the biggest names taking three of the late tee times for a Father’s Day round being shown during prime time.

Woods struck the ball as well as he had since his comeback during a round of 5-under 66 on Saturday that put him in third place, a threat to win his 15th major. But when he opened Sunday by three-putting No. 1 for a bogey, then teed off into the fescue on No. 3 and had to lay up, it was clear he would be in catch-up mode the rest of the day. He shot 75.

“Our game plan was just if we shot under par for the day we would probably win,” Woods said. “The golf course was playing too hard, too fast, and you can get away from you pretty quickly out there.”

Mickelson shot his 66 on Friday when his putter got hot and looked like a real threat to win the second leg of the Grand Slam. But he fell back Saturday and his birdie to open the round Sunday was the only one he made all day. He was in catch-up mode – to the point of desperation. Trailing by three with three holes left, he went pin hunting on No. 16. Missed the green, and told his caddie, Jim Mackay, “I took a chance, it didn’t pay off.”

“All I had to do was shoot even par in the back, and I’m in a playoff,” Mickelson said. “I wasn’t able to do it. Obviously, it was tough.”

Els got to 3-under par and briefly into a tie with McDowell midway through the front nine. But his tee shot on 10 went off the course, over the edge of the cliff, matted in the thick grass that leads down to the beach. He tiptoed down the hill but never found his ball. And when he came back to drop on the fairway, he chunked it, hit that ball into the tall grass, as well, and was lucky to make a 6 from there.

Els did not stick around to talk after playing the last 10 holes in 5-over par.

Instead, it was McDowell doing the talking. He came into the tournament with five victories on the European Tour, including one in his last tournament – in Wales earlier this month.

He got into the U.S. Open by narrowly making the top 50 in the world at the deadline to avoid qualifying, which he said he probably would have skipped anyway. Good thing it didn’t come to that. He’s now No. 13 and won’t have to worry about his spot in majors – or on the European Ryder Cup team later this year.

And for all the talk about first-time flukes at the U.S. Open, he joins an impressive list of players to win the Open at Pebble, one of America’s most celebrated courses: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods.

And now, McDowell.

“`I’m not quite sure if I belong in that list,” he said, “but, hey, I’m there now.”

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.