Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Royal seal of approval for year of Graeme MCDowell

Graeme McDowell became Europe's first US Open champion for 40 years when he clinched his maiden major title in impressive fashion at Pebble Beach this year.

Graeme McDowell MBE. It has a certain ring to it.

No wonder. G-Mac has been the Prince of Pebble and Lord of the Manor in 2010, so it's only right that he will enjoy a day at Buckingham Palace next year.

Speaking to Graeme at Rathmore Golf Club recently, he told me that this year has been the stuff of dreams.

Winning the Wales Open at Celtic Manor and the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama as well as finishing runner-up in the Race to Dubai would have been enough for most.

But not for Portrush's finest, who became golf's headline act this year.

He won the US Open, his first major tournament, was the hero in the Ryder Cup, beat Tiger Woods in a final day showdown in the American's own event and rose to a career high number six in the world rankings.

Not bad at all for a young man who first held a club “when I was seven or eight”.

McDowell, now 31, stands tall as one of Northern Ireland's greatest sportsmen, an inspiration to us all, who deserves his royal appointment.

“I will never forget 2010. It's been the best year of my life when so many of my dreams have come true,” he said. “The two things that stand out are the US Open win and the victory for Europe in the Ryder Cup, but so many other good things have happened too.

“Winning my first major was massive and to win it at Pebble Beach was incredible.

“Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods had won it there before me. It's a pretty amazing feeling to be on that list.

“It's also amazing to look back on what we achieved at the Ryder Cup.”

You may recall that, on the final day's singles, Europe were at one stage coasting to victory with McDowell's match with Hunter Mahan becoming more irrelevant by the minute.

That was until the Americans mounted a stunning comeback, leaving everything hinging on McDowell. He has to win otherwise Team USA would retain the Cup.

“As the day wore on I gradually realised that it was coming down to me and the pressure was intense,” he said.

“Thankfully I got the job done. It was magical to play a key role but there were 11 other guys on the team and everyone played their part.

“I'll always remember the celebrations that we had that night. It was a great experience.”

They kept on coming with McDowell coming from behind to clinch a famous victory against Tiger in a play-off in the Chevron World Challenge earlier this month.

“That was big for me too. It was fantastic to win the way I did and to beat Tiger.

“There's no doubt about it, it's been a special year, really special.”

Clearly that's how the Queen — perhaps with a nudge from huge golf fan Prince Andrew — saw it too with McDowell becoming a Member of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours list.

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