Reporting from Pebble Beach — Northern Ireland vs. France sounded more like World Cup group play match than the final-day showdown at the 110th U.S. Open golf championship.
You had to go back to 1970 to find the last European ( Tony Jacklin) to win a U.S. Open and here Sunday at Pebble Beach came down to one or the other: Graeme McDowell or Gregory Havret.
With golf's heavy hitters in the clubhouse packing things up, McDowell two-putted from 20 feet on the par-five finishing hole to claim the championship by a stroke over Havret.
McDowell survived as much as he prevailed, his three-over 74 good enough in the final round and even-par 284 overall good enough to hoist a trophy.
Later, the Northern Irishman conceded, there might be other things hoisted back in the home country.
McDowell was the fifth U.S. Open champion to be crowned at Pebble Beach.
"To join the names Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods . . . and me, wow," McDowell said, almost in disbelief. "I'm not sure I belong on that list."
It was a dream come due for McDowell and Europe and another gotcha moment for the United States Golf Assn., which declares victory every time par wins and the course earns the MVP (Most Valuable Poana).
Give McDowell credit. He held off three players with 21 combined major championships — Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els — and a feisty Frenchman.
Havret finished second at one-over 285, one shot better than Els and two ahead of Woods and Mickelson, who shared fourth place at 287.
"You're not expecting Gregory Havret being the guy you have to fend off," McDowell said.
Havret is ranked No. 391 in the world and had no business making this so complicated. He had to sink a long putt in sectional qualifying just to get into the prestigious Pebble Beach field.
Havret, though, made it a real baguette-biter.
Wasn't he supposed to be intimidated playing with Woods?
"No, I was not," Havret said. "The job is the same."
Havret, in fact, ended up besting Woods by three strokes on the day.
While McDowell waited down the final fairway, Havret stood over a birdie putt at 18 that could have pulled him even. But his ball slipped just left past the cup, which meant McDowell needed only par to win.
He adjusted accordingly on the 543-yard monster, laying up with his second shot, finding the green with his third, and two-putting for history.
McDowell needed nerve to win, and patience, and reverence to the course setup. But he also needed 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson to blow up, which he did.
Johnson, who took a three-shot lead into the final round, was seven-over for the day by the time he finished No. 7. He shot 42 on the front, 40 on the back and staggered in with an 11-over 82.
McDowell and Johnson were playing in the final group.
"I felt sorry for him," McDowell said. "We've all been there and it's not a lot of fun."
McDowell also said Johnson comported himself "really well."
Johnson's collapse should have been like tossing raw meat to Tiger, Phil and Ernie.
"When Dustin tripled the second, it was a wide-open tournament," Mickelson said of Johnson's seven on the par-four No. 2.
Yet, nobody could take advantage.
With a birdie at the par-five sixth, Els pulled even with McDowell, at which point you figured it was the Big Easy's title to lose.
But Els, who'd birdied three of the first six holes, made bogey at No. 9, doubled the 10th when he chose to take the coastline route to the green, bogeyed 11 and would finish with a two-over 73.
Woods was fist-pumped after his 66 on Saturday vaulted him from 25th to third place, only five shots off Johnson's lead.
Woods, though, had never won a major when he trailed entering the final round — and now he's 0 for 43. Woods bogeyed four of his first eight holes, six of his first 12, and skidded in with a four-over 75.
"I feel like I put some pieces together this week," Woods said. "It's a process. It's a long process."
Mickelson began seven shots behind Johnson, which would turn out to mean nothing, and figured he needed something in the 60s to make things interesting.
But after playing the front nine in one-under 34, he ended up shooting an uninteresting, two-over 73, good for fourth place.
"I'm glad it wasn't second," said Mickeslon, a five-time runner-up in the U.S. Open.
Mickelson off-loaded all his momentum when he missed an eagle putt after driving the green at the par-four fourth and ended up missing the birdie putt too.
"And I make par," he said. "That was frustrating."
Or, maybe it was just about time guys from Northern Ireland and France battled it out for America's cups.
Pebble Beach definitely had a British Open feel.
"I love links courses," Havret said. "I really enjoy playing on this type of course. It suits fine to my game, I think."
It was, finally, McDowell's day in the sun (with patchy cloud cover).
It was Northern Ireland's day and a fine night for the pint business in McDowell's seaside town of Portrush, which sort of reminds him of Pebble Beach (only greener).
Who thought Sunday would be a great day to shoot 74?