The column about golfer Graeme McDowell's victory in the U.S. Open incorrectly referred to McDowell as a native of the west coast of Ireland. McDowell is from Portrush, on the north coast of Northern Ireland.
Graeme McDowell rides wave of calm to U.S. Open title
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF.
Sometimes, you can hear the voice of a U.S. Open champion in the making and not even know it at the time.
On the third tee on Sunday at Pebble Beach, I stood next to Dustin Johnson after he'd just made triple bogey at the second hole to fall back into a tie for the lead with his playing partner, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland. Somehow, in the crush, I'd gotten the perfect spot to hear whatever pieces of Johnson's golf soul might leak out in his moment of crisis.
However, the South Carolinian was simply solemn and silent, locked in his thoughts, perhaps frozen by the moment, saying absolutely nothing. He was, sad to say, about to pump his hurried tee ball into three-foot-deep gorse for a double bogey and then disappear down a dark, hellish golf hole, shooting 82 on a day when 76 would've won an Open.
But there was a voice chattering on that tee -- McDowell chirping in thick accents with his caddie. You'd have thought they were in a pub back home, without a care, discussing some golfer on TV who was confronting a tough tee shot.
The compact, 30-year-old McDowell, with an abbreviated, shallow backswing, then a lash through the ball to a high finish, crushed a towering tee shot over a copse of strategic trees at the dogleg's turn. "I think that'll be just about perfect when it's done," he said.
And so it was by the end -- perfectly done by McDowell.
From the time he arrived here he said he felt at home, like he was on a breezy seaside links on his native west coast of Ireland, put at peace as so many others have been by the scenes here, which strike deep into you.
In Friday, as he took the lead, others were miffed by long delays. Not McDowell. "There are some pretty good sights to kind of take your mind off things," he said. "You've got to be ready for [delays] and take in the scenery; it's pretty spectacular."
All week, he was the one player who seemed to sense that a special moment was arriving for him. Others hoped. But the man with the scruffy wannabe beard seemed to have seen the script. Or maybe it was a kind of self-hypnosis.
"Is this weekend my weekend? I have no idea, but if I get a sniff Sunday afternoon I'll be ready for it," he said. Then, once he'd reached the final Sunday pairing, he added, "Where else would you rather be on a Sunday afternoon but the last group in a major at Pebble Beach. So bring it on."
If anyone else in contention here truly felt such confidence, then they certainly didn't play like it, especially Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who finished tied for fourth but couldn't cash in when it mattered most. After a 66 on Friday, which put him directly in the path of back-to-back majors, Mickelson finished 73-73 on the weekend and never felt like New Phil, but rather that former, disappointing fellow from years ago. After a 66 on Saturday, Woods claimed he'd found his game. Overnight, he misplaced it and shot 75.