PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Gentlemen, fire up your punch lines.
This is how you know you have just spent five hours watching perhaps the most bizarre final round U.S. Open in recent memory.
The Frenchman was the only one who didn't retreat.
|Gregory Havret handles Pebble's challenges despite never seeing the course before. (Getty Images)|
As most folks were riveted to the unpredictable histrionics of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, the 395th-ranked player in the world nearly sneaked in and swiped the toughest title in tournament golf.
C'est la vie, guys. You just got schooled by a player that only the most ardent fans in the States have ever heard of. Even the fans who yelled support of his efforts had trouble, calling him Have-Rit, instead of Have-Ray. In whatever tongue, they didn't have what he had.
Since the world rankings were formulated in 1986, the lowest-ranked U.S. Open winner was Steve Jones, who was 99th in 1996. It had been more than a century since a Frenchman had won a major, dating to Arnaud Massy's win at the British Open in 1907.
Six years later, the biggest upset in Grand Slam history took place when former caddie Francis Ouimet, an unknown American who was given zero chance, put the sport on the map in the States by upsetting British greats Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the U.S. Open in Massachusetts. Hollywood even made a movie about it.
Similarly, Havret played with Woods, who has caused more than a few stout players to swoon over the years, and shot a 1-over 72 to beat him by three shots. He seemed to actually enjoy the process.
"My ears were very painful," he grinned of the din.
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The 33-year-old, who has three wins on the European Tour and bested Phil Mickelson in a playoff to win the 2007 Scottish Open, had the best chance of anybody to make McDowell blink. As the others were backing up en masse, Havret stood on the 17th tee one stroke off the lead and shoved his tee shot into a greenside bunker.
After blasting to 10 feet, he missed, giving McDowell, playing right behind him, a cushion he would not waste. Needing a birdie on the par-5 18th to put pressure on the Irishman, he missed another 10-footer and it was all over but the explanations.
"A very bad putt," he said. "Probably the worst one of the week. I was expecting maybe a nice surprise from the sky to make the playoff."
Sorry, the golf gods take vacation time during the U.S. Open. But at least Havret had a fighting chance at the end, unlike the others.
Havret, who had to survive a playoff to advance from his Open sectional qualifier overseas, arrived this week not expecting much. After all, this was his U.S. Open debut, he's never before set foot on the course and this particular event tends to eat rookies alive.
Winning? Sacre bleu.
"No, of course not, it's my first U.S. Open," Havret said of his chances this week. "All of a sudden, to play with Tiger on Sunday. But I knew that I had some chance."
The previous sentence might have been missing a few parts, but Havret had all the right pieces, outplaying Woods, Els and Mickelson, who have 21 major titles between them. Woods was flat flailing, compared to Havret.
"He's a good player -- he didn't play good today," Havret said.
Havret didn't seem all that aware that he was widely considered a fish out of water, or at least a guppy among sharks, as he walked along the cliffs of the Pacific, the game's biggest stars on his heels.
"Well, my feeling right now is it's probably the best surprise for me," he said. "So I'm very happy. But it's also the biggest disappointment. It doesn't mean I would have won, because maybe a playoff, and then see what happens."
This much seemed evident based on the way he handled himself Sunday in the most pressure-packed arena in golf -- had it gone to another 18 on Monday, he wouldn't have batten an eye.