PROFILE: Graeme McDowell

The first Northern Irish winner of a Major since 1947

It has been a whirlwind year for Graeme McDowell, who will celebrate his 31st birthday at the end of this month (July 2010). After his victory at the US Open in June, the man from Portrush made headlines across the world. And for a player who has always showed such potential - from his childhood beginnings at the Royal Portrush Golf Club through the American amateur ranks - many felt that the US Open win was long overdue for the man they call 'GMac'.

McDowell’s professional career began in 2002. It was the culmination of a distinguished Irish amateur career and a golf scholarship at the University of Alabama. McDowell showed excellent promise as a collegiate golfer and was awarded the prestigious Haskins Award after ranking as Number One Collegiate Golfer in the United States.

A maiden tour victory followed soon after McDowell turned professional, in the Scandinavian Masters, which secured him entry to the top 50 in the official World Golf Rankings for the first time.

It wasn’t until 2008 that McDowell really began to make a name for himself in the professional arena. A victory at the inaugural Ballantines Championship in South Korea was followed by a win at the Barclays Scottish Open, the biggest triumph of his career thus far.

This success merited McDowell a place on the European team at the 2008 Ryder Cup (his first) in America. Although Europe were eventually unsuccessful McDowell put up a commendable fight, winning two and a half points out of a possible four.

McDowell winning the US OpenVictory eluded McDowell in 2009. He still managed three top-20 finishes in the Majors, and enjoyed two second place finishes at the Chevron World Challenge and also at the World Cup.

2010 was to be his defining year. He made history in the US Open by becoming the first Northern Irishman to win the tournament since Fred Daly in 1947, and the first European to win in 40 years.

The Portrush native went into the event after securing a win at Celtic Manor earlier in the year. He brought this form into the Open, finishing the competition at the iconic Pebble Beach on level par, one stroke ahead of Frenchman Gregory Havret.

McDowell was helped to victory by the collapse of Dustin Johnson, who led by three shots coming into the final day, but it was the consistency and steely nerve of the Ulsterman that was most impressive. He held off pressure from not only Havret, but from three of the biggest names in modern day golf - Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and, of course, Tiger Woods.

Speaking after the event, McDowell talked of what his caddy had said before his final round, 'He said to me, "We can deal with failure. But can we deal with success?"'

This will undoubtedly be the next major challenge facing Graeme McDowell, but who would bet against the Ulsterman winning another major in the not too distant future?

Jonathan McCormick