PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Graeme McDowell doesn't have the golfing pedigree of a U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach.
All he had Sunday was the game it takes to win.
Even as the biggest stars -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els -- were lined up behind him on the leaderboard and poised to contribute to the lineage of champions on this majestic course, McDowell never felt out of place.
Despite making only one birdie in the final round, the 30-year-old from Northern Ireland was steady amid the stars of his generation and closed with a 3-over 74 to become the first European in 40 years to capture America's national championship.
He seized control after a shocking collapse by former Coastal Carolina standout Dustin Johnson, then failed to get flustered by the three stars behind him, who have combined for 184 victories and 21 majors. All he had to do on the final hole was two-putt
for par from 20 feet to join a distinguished list.
"To win at Pebble Beach, to join the names -- Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods, me -- wow!" McDowell said. "I'm not quite sure if I belong in that list, but hey, I'm there now. It's a pretty amazing feeling."
Almost as surprising was the guy who gave McDowell the most trouble. Gregory Havret, a Frenchman who is No. 391 in the world, played with heart until he failed to convert putts over the final holes. He shot 72 and finished one shot behind.
"When you have Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els there, you're not expecting Gregory Havret to be the guy you've got to fend off," McDowell said.
Indeed, it was a final round no one expected.
Johnson took a triple bogey on the second hole to lose all of his three-shot lead, and a double bogey on the next hole ended his hopes. Not only was McDowell handed the lead, but Woods, Mickelson and Els were given new life.
What a wasted opportunity that turned out to be.
McDowell's lone birdie was an eight-foot putt on the fifth hole, and his final round was the highest score by a U.S. Open champion since Andy North in 1985.
"I can't believe I'm standing with this right now," McDowell said, posing with silver trophy. "It's a dream come true. I've been dreaming it all my life. Two putts to win the U.S. Open. Can't believe it happened."
Woods couldn't believe it, either. Poised to end six months of bad publicity over a shattered personal life, he bogeyed five of his first 10 holes and took himself out of contention with a 75.
"I made three mental mistakes," Woods said sourly. "The only thing it cost us was a chance to win the U.S. Open."
Els and Mickelson hung around a little longer, and both had opportunities, but neither could capitalize.
Els had a brief share of the lead on the front nine but came undone along the coastal holes -- including one stretch of bogey-double bogey-bogey -- and never quite recovered. His hopes ended when he missed his target with a sand wedge on the par-5 14th and took bogey, then missed a four-foot birdie putt on the 15th. He closed with a 73 to finish alone in third.
Mickelson, with another great chance to end a career of disappointment at the U.S. Open, holed a birdie putt from just off the green on the first hole, then didn't made another birdie the rest of the day. He also shot a 73 and tied for fourth with Woods, missing a chance to supplant Woods at No. 1 in the world.
"It was anybody's ball game," Mickelson said. "I had a number of opportunities to get well under par, and I didn't do it."
Even so, nothing compares with what happened to Johnson. The 25-year-old American looked so unflappable all week, and came apart so quickly. On the final hole of a round he won't forget, Johnson missed a two-foot birdie putt and wound up with an 82, the highest closing round by a 54-hole leader in the U.S. Open since Fred McLeod shot 83 in 1911.
McDowell finished at even-par 284 and ended 40 years of questions about when a European would be U.S. Open champion again. Tony Jacklin of England was the last one, in 1970 at Hazeltine.
McDowell had to work harder than he imagined.
Even under overcast skies and a stiff breeze, the course was as firm and dangerous as ever. Davis Love III, with a 71, was the only player in the final five groups to match par.
"I can't believe how difficult this golf course was," McDowell said. "No matter how good you play ... good golf got reward, and bad golf got punished really badly."
McDowell got into the U.S. Open by narrowly getting into the top 50 in the world at the deadline to avoid qualifying. He wound up with his first victory in America to go along with five European Tour victories, most recently the Wales Open last month.