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Graeme swings perfect Father's Day present for proud dad Kenny

GRAEME McDowell today became the first Irishman to win the biggest prize in golf -- the US Open.

With proud Dad Kenny looking on -- on Father's Day -- Graeme sank the winning putt shortly after 2am.

The 30-year-old played some stunning golf to beat Tiger Woods and a host of others at Pebble Beach in California.

Clint Eastwood was amongst the well wishers to join the Royal Portrush player's celebration party.

As he was being presented with the prize, a chorus of 'Ole, Ole' went up from the crowd.

"You know what the Irish are like, they're everywhere," laughed McDowell, before predicting that quite a few pints of Guinness were being supped "back in Ireland".



LIFE-CHANGING

In winning the US Open, McDowell is the only European apart from Padraig Harrington to win a golf major in 11 years.

The 30-year-old grabbed the title -- and the €1.08m prize money -- in impressive fashion.

The life-changing win for the man from Portrush in Northern Ireland launched him up to 13th in the world rankings, and straight into the Ryder Cup team for the event at Celtic Manor, Wales, later this year.

He is now two places ahead of Dubliner Padraig Harrington and three behind fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.

It caps an exceptional four years for Irish golf, with McDowell's win coming after three Major successes for Harrington since 2007.

His dad, Kenny, got the best Father's Day present imaginable as he watched his son hold his nerve and par the 18th.

Graeme's journey to Pebble Beach began at about the age of seven, when he picked up a golf club for the first time. Father and son used to go to the local pitch-and-putt in Portrush, Kenny explained.

While getting lessons when they were young boys, Graeme and his two brothers Gary and Gordie were promised a Mars bar for whoever got closest to the 100-yard target.

After about six goes, Graeme had been moved 50 yards back from everyone else, Kenny said.

Graeme won by a single shot yesterday, beating off the challenge of France's Gregory Havret in difficult scoring conditions.

The Irishman carded a final round of 74, leaving him on level par for the tournament.

And when he was handed the trophy, he hugged it tightly after finishing ahead of world number one Tiger Woods and the second-best-ranked player Phil Mickelson.



ELITE

He said he felt a new chapter opening for him after eight years as a professional on the European Tour.

"There's not too many bad golfers on this trophy and to join an elite list of names, I mean, careers are defined by Major championships and my career's off and running today," McDowell said.

He added: "It's a surreal feeling for me right now but I feel ready to go.

"I'm playing the golf of my life right now and to pick up this trophy, I don't know, I'm not sure how much partying I'm going to do over the next three months."

He is looking forward to cutting loose with his friends in Ireland. "I think I might catch them all up with beer next weekend. The Harbour Bar in Portrush for a pint of Guinness. I think there will be a few of those in my future," he said.

hnews@herald.ie


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