Despite his prior European Tour success and eventual sparkling Ryder Cup resume, Graeme McDowell was a pretty surprising winner at the 2010 U.S. Open. While not nearly the underdog as Lucas Glover had been the previous year at Bethpage Black, the 37th-ranked player in world didn’t quite match the pedigree of the four golfers to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach before him: Jack Nicklaus (1972), Tom Watson (1982), Tom Kite (1992) and Tiger Woods (2000). Heck, even G-Mac himself was stunned by how it all unfolded.
“I bogeyed 9 and 10, I looked up at the leader board and I was surprised to be two ahead, I really was,” McDowell said. “And I was surprised that Gregory Havret was the guy closest to me. No disrespect to Gregory, he’s a great player, but when you have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els there, you’re not expecting Gregory Havret to be the guy you’ve got to fend off.”
We’ll get to Gregory Havret in a bit, because his performance was even more unlikely than G-Mac’s, but there are plenty of other things you probably don’t remember from the last time Pebble Beach hosted the U.S. Open. Here’s a look back:
1.) McDowell broke a loooong European drought
McDowell’s win kicked off a run on majors by players from Northern Ireland as Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open, 2012 and 2014 PGA, 2014 Open Championshpi) and Darren Clarke (2011 Open Championship) followed suit. But amazingly, he was the first golfer from anywhere in Europe to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Making that stat even more amazing is the fact that Europeans, including McIlroy the following year at Congressional, won three of the next four U.S. Opens as well. And, of course, there’s the fact they always win the Ryder Cup.
2.) McDowell barely qualified for the event
By the time play started at Pebble Beach, McDowell was ranked 37th in the world, but that was in large part due to his win in Wales two weeks before. Another two weeks before that, McDowell’s T-28 at the BMW PGA Championship was just enough to crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at 49th, earning him one of the final non-qualifying spots in the field at Pebble.
3.) McDowell didn’t exactly close strong
McDowell only made one birdie in a final-round 74 (three over), and was four over on his final 10 holes. Someday when he tells his grandkids, the story will probably go that he birdied the entire back nine to beat Tiger, but until then, he limped home to victory, which is often how U.S. Opens go. OK, enough about McDowell …
4.) Gregory Havret finished runner-up
If you remembered this fact before reading that McDowell quote above, we’re impressed. Or more likely, you’re lying. To be fair, Havret only had two fewer career European Tour titles than McDowell at the time, but he hasn’t won and has barely played in major championships since. Havret’s T-30 at the following year’s U.S. Open highlighted his five future starts on golf’s biggest stages. Has anyone ever been happier to accept the runner-up medal at a U.S. Open?
5.) This was the beginning of the end for Anthony Kim
The popular rising star missed this U.S. Open after undergoing thumb surgery, a pity considering how well he was playing before the injury. Kim won the Shell Houston Open in April—his last of three career PGA Tour titles—and then finished third at the Masters. After playing in all four majors in 2011, the injury-plagued AK has pretty much been MIA since. Sigh.
6.) Tom Watson took advantage of a special exemption
As the winner of the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble, Watson was given a special exemption by the USGA to play in 2010. Not that he didn’t deserve a spot based on his previous two major starts. In addition to nearly winning the 2009 British Open, Watson finished T-18 at the 2010 Masters. Not surprisingly, even at 60, Watson kept his strong play going with a T-29 at Pebble Beach with his son Michael on the bag.
7.) Tiger Woods was “BACK!” for the first time
Making just the fifth start following his 2009 scandal, Tiger struggled through the first 45 holes before catching fire on Saturday’s back nine. With three closing birdies, Woods’ 31 vaulted him into contention and had everyone, including NBC’s Johnny Miller, declaring he was “BACK!” Tiger electrified the crowds at Pebble in particular with this carved 3-wood around a tree and onto the 18th green:
Of course, he wasn’t actually BACK. Not even close. Woods bogeyed his first hole the following day and was never a serious threat. He shot a final-round 75 when an even-par 71 would have been good enough for another U.S. Open triumph at Pebble.
8.) Shaun Micheel was a co-leader
OK, so it was just one round, but Micheel, whose lone PGA Tour win came at the 2003 PGA Championship, went to sleep sharing the lead with Brendon de Jonge (guessing you don’t remember that, either) and Paul Casey. Micheel had a double-hit the next day as part of a 77 that sent him tumbling down the leader board. But he rallied after that to finish T-22. He’s never played in another U.S. Open since.
9.) DJ’s Sunday meltdown was an all-timer
When there are photos of you hitting a shot with the opposite hand and peering over a cliff to find your golf ball on the same day, you know you had a rough round. And the 2010 U.S. Open is probably remembered as much for Dustin Johnson’s collapse as it is for Graeme McDowell’s win. But it was even more stunning than you recall. Not only did he hold a three-shot 54-hole lead but he had won the two previous AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Ams. He was the Prince of Pebble! Until he wasn’t. And it happened quickly with a triple bogey on two and a lost ball (not even the one pictured) double bogey on three. Add it all up and his final-round 82 was the highest closing round of a 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open since Fred McLeod’s 83 in 1911. Poor DJ. And he hadn’t even met Paulina yet.
10.) Tiger and Phil mirrored each other all week
In a strange twist, golf’s two biggest names didn’t record a single birdie in the first round—and yet they wound up finishing the week tied for fourth place.
11.) An 18-year-old played in second-to-last group on Saturday
And nobody batted an eye. That’s how good Ryo Ishikawa was—and was expected to be. Remember him? The “Bashful Prince”? The Japanese phenom was the youngest ever to crack the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, and he had shot a final-round 58 to win a Japan Golf Tour event the month before. And you can tell he was a teen by that acne. Anyway, this was supposed to be a familiar sight for the next couple decades—Ishikawa contending in big events, not the acne. Instead, Ishikawa only has six made cuts at majors since and hasn’t played in one in four years.
12.) Matt Kuchar was already doing Matt Kuchar things
Good things, that is. The king of the backdoor top 10 shot a Sunday 68 to finish T-6. Getty Images doesn’t even have a photo of him from the final three rounds (the one above is from the first round) and yet there was his name showing up on the leader board on Sunday. Vintage Kuch.
13.) Ernie Els was tied for the lead on Sunday
The Big Easy had a big opportunity to win a fourth major after a third birdie in six holes gave him a share of the lead during the final round. But he shot five over the rest of the way to finish third. He’d get that fourth major title two years later when his late charge (combined with Adam Scott’s late collapse) gave him a second claret jug. Also, Els wasn’t the only big name struggling down the stretch …
14.) No one finished under par
The sea was angry that day, my friends. Well, really for most of the week as gusty conditions kept anyone from finishing in red numbers for the tournament. McDowell’s even-par total of 284 held up by one over Havret. The saying, “Par is a good score at the U.S. Open,” exists for a reason, people!
15.) The final groups really struggled on Sunday
The top six through 54 holes combined to make two birdies on the back nine on Sunday while racking up 18 bogeys or worse. No one in the final five groups broke par, including these two legends. Look closely and you can see the “We just lost to Graeme Freaking McDowell” smirks on their faces.
16.) But not as badly as one group the week before
Remember the Golf Digest Challenge? I do, because I was there for the third and final installment, which happened the prior week at Pebble. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Wahlberg, Drew Brees, and contest winner Peggy Ference teed it up from the tips and the results were about as ugly as you’d expect. Keeping score was so tough that The Great One, who holed a bunker shot on No. 7 then shanked his tee shot on No. 8, initially thought he’d shot his jersey number before being told it was actually an even 100. Wahlberg wound up being the only player to break 100 on a day when a pre-Masters winning Bubba Watson and a pre, well, Rickie Fowler were caddies. Good times.
17.) Phil just missed another career achievement
Perhaps as crazy as Mickelson’s U.S. Open record of six runner-up finishes with no wins is the fact he’s never held the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. And this tournament was one of his golden opportunities. A win would have guaranteed Mickelson moving into the No. 1 spot and there were other permutations that would have yielded the same result, but alas, none of them happened. Anyway, You probably remember Phil’s final-round pinstripe pants, however. Those are something you can’t un-see.