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McDowell takes U.S. Open title

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Graeme McDowell makes history
  • Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell wins the U.S. Open by a stroke
  • Gregory Havret of France finishes second, Ernie Els claims third place
  • Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson locked in tie for fourth, three shots back
  • McDowell becomes first European to win U.S. Open in 40 years

(CNN) -- Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell edged out Gregory Havret of France by a stroke on Sunday to become the first European to claim the U.S. Open golf title in 40 years.

McDowell shot a three-over-par 74 at Pebble Beach on Sunday -- the highest closing round by a U.S. Open champion in 25 years, to finish on level-par 284.

With surprise contender Havret safely in the clubhouse on one-over 285, he kept his nerve to two putt the final hole for his first major triumph.

"It's a very special feeling to pick this trophy up on the 18th green of one of the most special golf courses on the planet," the 30-year-old told the official PGA Tour website.

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"To join the list of names, Tom Kite, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus. I can't believe I'm standing here as a major champion. It's an amazing feeling."

England's Tony Jacklin was the last European winner of the U.S. Open at Hazeltine in 1970.

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McDowell, who was coming off a victory on the European Tour at Celtic Manor, started the day three shots behind American Duston Johnson on three-under- par.

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But as Johnson frittered away shots on his front nine on the way to an 82, McDowell took command and had shots in hand on the field for the tough back nine of the Californian links.

The expected challenge from Tiger Woods never materialized as the world number one could not match the brilliance of his third round 66.

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He told NBC that "mental mistakes" were behind his four-over 75, which left him in a tie for fourth with arch-rival Phil Mickelson on three-over 287.

Mickelson, who started the day seven adrift of Johnson, also found momentum hard to come by and had to watch playing partner Havret launch the main challenge to McDowell.

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South African star Ernie Els was also briefly in the lead with McDowell at three-under-par through his sixth hole, but a poor run around the turn dashed his chances and he finished third on two-over par after a 72.

Havret, the world number 381 going into the second major of the season, needed to birdie the par-five closing hole to put pressure on McDowell, but missed his putt for a four.

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It left McDowell to take the safe route and lay-up short of the green before pitching on and two-putting for the sweetest of victories.

He went into the tournament overshadowed by the likes of Lee Westwood and fellow Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy, two of five Britons in the world top 10, but encouraged by his Celtic Manor victory was on the top of his game.

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"I controlled my emotions," said McDowell. "I felt calm all week."

Attention will now turn to St.Andrews in Scotland in the third week of July for the third major of the season where U.S. Masters champion Mickelson will looking for his second major of 2010 while Woods will look for the 15th of his career.