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U.S. Open champion McDowell proud to spearhead European challenge

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Graeme McDowell claims his first major in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach
  • McDowell is first European since Tony Jacklin in 1970 to win U.S. Open
  • Northern Ireland says European golf is enjoying a 'purple patch'

(CNN) -- Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell says his surprise victory at the U.S. Open just underlines the growing challenge of European golfers in the sport's major events.

After Pebble Beach, no less than five British players are in the top 10 of the latest world rankings.

13 other Europeans, including McDowell, who has risen to a career high 13th, are in the top 50.

It bodes well for the Ryder Cup clash against the United States at Celtic Manor in October, on a course on which McDowell warmed up for Pebble Beach with victory in the Wales Open.

Video: Graeme McDowell makes history
Video: Breakthrough at U.S. Open

"It's cool to be part of a seriously strong European contingent right now," McDowell told CNN.

"European golf is in a massive purple patch and we are now taking home some of the big trophies.

"I really believe we have the best young talent coming through," added the 30-year-old, who has been a professional for eight years after playing U.S. college golf.

McDowell is now targeting further major glory but is still savoring "an extra special moment" at Pebble Beach.

It came after a final round three-over 74, but he admitted to being surprised one of the big names like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods did not mount a bigger challenge on the last day, perhaps because of the tough conditions on the Californian seaside

"I had a really good game plan which I stuck too.

I expect a few pints to be drunk in my honor this week
--Graeme McDowell
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"The way the golf was was set up you could not overpower it, The Tigers and Phils could not overpower it, you had to play sensible and keep below the pin.

"It was a typical U.S. Open Sunday," was his verdict.

McDowell is based out of the Rathmore Golf Club in Portrush where celebrations took place long and through the night after his one-stroke victory over France's Gregory Havret.

"I expect a few pints to be drunk in my honor this week," said McDowell who will return home to Northern Ireland to a heroes welcome.

He is the first golfer from the British province to win a major since Fred Daley, who won the British Open in 1947.

England's Tony Jacklin was the last European golfer to claim the U.S. Open back in 1970.