McDowell seized control after a shocking collapse by Dustin Johnson, then failed to get flustered withTiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els lined up behind him. The 30-year-old from Northern Ireland wasn't perfect, but he was good enough.
He closed with a 3-over 74 to become the first European in 40 years to capture the U.S. Open, getting an embrace on the 18th green from his father, who spoke for thousands who watched this unlikely Open unfold along the Pacific coastline.
"You're something, kid," Kenny McDowell said.
It was a final round no one expected.
Johnson took a triple bogey on the second hole to lose all of his three-shot lead, and a double bogey on the next hole ended his hopes. Three of the biggest stars of this generation were right there, ready to continue the lineage of great champions at Pebble Beach, only to play far below their expectations.
McDowell made only one birdie — an 8-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole — and his final round was the highest score by a U.S. Open champion since Andy North in 1985.
"I can't believe I'm standing with this right now," McDowell said, posing with silver trophy. "It's a dream come true. I've been dreaming it all my life. Two putts to win the U.S. Open. Can't believe it happened."
Woods couldn't believe it, either.
Poised to end six months of bad publicity over a shattered personal life, he bogeyed five of his first 10 holes and took himself out of contention with a 75.
Els and Mickelson hung around a little longer, and both had their chances, but neither hit the kind of shots that win the U.S. Open.