PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. –– As golf trips go, it appeared impossible to improve upon it at all. Saturday at San Francisco Golf Club, Sunday at Monterey Peninsula GC, then Monday at the most breathtaking of all, Cypress Point.
Father and son soaked it all in – then they took perfection to another level. They played Pebble Beach Tuesday, blessed with the chance to relive a moment that is frozen in time: Graeme McDowell’s 2010 U.S. Open victory.
It came right here at the edge of the Pacific, McDowell the first European to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin 40 years earlier. The final putt, the clenched first, the entire scene at the 72nd hole that day “is a blur,” and McDowell concedes he remembers very little of the moment. But he does recall this: Kenny McDowell leaned in and said to his son, “You’re some kid.”
There is also this: That until this week, until this opportunity to play with Kenny in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Graeme had not been back at Pebble Beach. For good reason, too.
“I kind of said, ‘Well, what’s the point of coming back? It’s not going to get any better than how it felt last time I was here.,’ “ said McDowell, whose major triumph in 2010 catapulted him to the next stratosphere in world golf. He’s been a marquee name ever since, a hero in Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup win, a second-time PGA Tour winner at last year’s RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, an eloquent voice in the sport.
But a stranger in these parts . . . until this week.
“It’s a bit of a special opportunity,” said McDowell of the pro-am spot he’ll have alongside his father for rounds at Spyglass (Thursday), Monterey Peninsula (Friday), and Pebble Beach Golf Links (Saturday, and Sunday, should they make the cut). “Big thanks to the sponsors and everyone involved, to help give me that opportunity.”
Kenny McDowell got his son involved in golf back at Portrush in Northern Ireland, but he’s never been a competitive golfer of any sorts. Graeme said his dad was perhaps a 10-handicap, but then he smiled. “He’s got a busted up knee, and he’s got an old Portrush links game, doesn’t fly it very far through the air, relies on a lot of run along the ground.”
That’s not conducive to the setting out here on the Peninsula, where the ball doesn’t fly forever in the cool, ocean air, and stops short on the soft, damp turf. But it matters not a bit that Graeme doesn’t fancy the McDowells’ chances in the pro-am race; “we’re just here to have a good time.”
In fact, forget the team title, there is one quest that will determine whether the week is a success or not.
“I think my dad’s goal for the week is really to have a beer with Clint Eastwood,” said Graeme. “Hopefully on Friday night. That’s the goal for the week. If we achieve that, we’ll be happy.”
And if they don’t? The guess is, they’ll still be happy, never more so than when they’re in the embrace of those warm memories of the 18th green at Pebble Beach.