PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Sunday at Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell w-w-w-w- ...
Sorry. Let me try that again.
Sunday at Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell wo-wo-wo- ...
Nope. Can't do it. Can't write that Graeme McDowell, um, finished the 110th U.S. Open on Sunday with a four-day score that was better than everyone else's four-day score. I can't say he
won the event, because he played his final 10 holes in 4-over par. He didn't win the event. What did he do? He did the worst job of losing it.
Lose the Open? Dustin Johnson was masterful at it. He went into the day leading the field by three shots, but he gave those up on the second hole. He swung under a chip, hurriedly swiped it onto the green -- after being caught by NBC's cameras saying a two-word epithet in which he pondered sexual relations with himself -- and then missed a 4-foot putt. Triple-bogey.
Johnson lost his drive on the next hole for a double-bogey. And then he drove over the cliff -- his ball, his round, his reputation, all of it -- on the next hole. Now he was out of the lead. Soon he was off the leaderboard. Had this thing gone another 18 holes, he might have lost his tour card. As it was, he finished Sunday with an 82 after missing a 3-footer on No. 18.
Johnson was the most effective loser in the field, but he wasn't the only one. Tiger Woods also lost this thing, starting the day 1-under par but ballooning to 4-over after 13 holes. A score of even-par would have won this Open for Woods. Instead he shot a 75.
Phil Mickelson lost this thing, making the turn at even par -- the eventual winning score -- but bogeying three holes on the back nine to finish tied for fourth.
Ernie Els lost this thing, squandering a brilliant front nine -- where he got to 3-under after eight holes -- by playing the final 10 holes in 5-over.
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Davis Love III lost this thing in much the same way, falling from a peak of 1-over as he walked onto the 12th green to 5-over when he walked off the 17th.
Look at those names: Woods. Mickelson. Els. Love. Twenty-two major championships between them. And Dustin Johnson, one of the most physically gifted players in the world. They lost this tournament. All of them.
"Great setup," McDowell said of Pebble Beach Golf Links. "It punished bad golf."
Well then -- spankings all around. The only guy with a shot of beating McDowell who didn't systematically fail was Frenchman Gregory Havret, a player so obscure that I didn't bother to learn his first name until late Sunday afternoon ... and he has the same name as me. It never registered, because he's nobody. I have no idea where Havret came from, other than France, but I'm positive that after this week he'll return there and never be heard from again.
On second thought, never mind. I was being kind because of that whole shared name thing, but Havret lost this Open, too. He was 2-under after seven holes, then bogeyed three of the final 11. And still he had a chance to force a playoff. Havret hit into sand traps on the last two holes. And still he had a chance to force a playoff. But with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to tie McDowell, Havret pulled it like a hamstring. Looked like me putting out there. And I quit the game years ago -- sold my clubs for $7 -- because I was awful.
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"But I didn't sack those," he said.
McDowell mustered just one birdie on Sunday, compared to the 11 birdies he put together on Thursday and Friday.
"I kind of ran out of steam today," he said. "Tried to par the thing to death, and thankfully that was enough."
This wasn't the typical U.S. Open example of a brutal course taking a bite out of the best players in the world. It was difficult, and the wind didn't make it any easier, but it's too easy to say that's all that happened here. What also happened here was bad shot after bad shot, with Woods and Mickelson and Els and Johnson launching balls into the Pacific Ocean. These weren't shots from 6-inch rough flubbing their way into the drink -- these were tee shots going in the Pacific Ocean. Approaches from the fairway, into the Pacific. I walked the course and got close to the cliffs and wondered, at the time, why there were only three boats in the water. But now I get it. The Pacific was no place to be on Sunday. With golf balls flying everywhere, a boater could get brained out there.
McDowell didn't contribute to the fusillade into the Pacific, but he contributed something else for golfing lore: The white-flag finish. After McDowell bogeyed the 17th and hit his tee shot on the 18th into the rough, caddy Ken Comboy had seen enough. In an embarrassing conversation caught on national television, McDowell wanted to hit a 2-iron. Comboy told him to hit a 9-iron. They settled on a 5-iron, which McDowell put into the middle of the fairway. From there he hit a pitching wedge onto the green, 25 feet away. Two putts later -- the latter from about 15 inches -- the U.S. Open was over.
On the surface, McDowell is worthy. He's a Ryder Cup veteran ranked 37th in the world, and he won his last event -- the Wales Open on the PGA European Tour -- by shooting 64-63 on the weekend. Earlier this week McDowell showed the necessary bravado, saying he was envisioning himself as champion and welcoming the infamous Pebble Beach wind.
"I hope it blows -- I think it will separate the men from the boys," McDowell said. "Bring it on."
McDowell added, "If I get a sniff Sunday afternoon, I'll be ready for it."
He got the sniff, and it damn near knocked him unconscious. But McDowell stayed upright, and upright was enough to, um, take home that silver jug that goes to the