HE may have eight years as a professional already under his belt but Graeme McDowell says his career has only begun in earnest now he has landed his first Major.
The Northern Irishman put himself firmly on the map by claiming the US Open at Pebble Beach late on Sunday night after a nerve-wracking final round.
In doing so he became the first European man to win the tournament since 1970, when Tony Jacklin triumphed at Hazeltine.
And by prevailing at the famous California course McDowell followed in the footsteps of icons of the game such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
“There’s not too many bad golfers on this trophy,” said McDowell, who finished level par and pipped Frenchman Gregory Havret by one shot. “And to join an elite list of names, I mean, careers are defined by major championships and my career’s off and running today.
“I think I’ve died and gone to heaven for sure. This can’t be really real and I don’t think this will ever sink in. It’s a very special feeling to pick this trophy up on the 18th green [of] one of the most special golf courses on the planet.”
The 30-year-old’s biggest success comes just two weeks after he won the Welsh Open at Celtic Manor – a course he seems set to return to later this year to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup.
“It’s been a special few weeks. To win in Wales and to come here and win, I can’t describe how I feel,” McDowell added.
“It’s a surreal feeling for me right now but I feel ready to go. I’m playing the golf of my life right now.
“Probably I should sober up pre-Ryder Cup at some point, but I’m looking forward to celebrating this one and it’s a cool feeling.”