- June 20 down the years
McDowell ends 30-year European drought
Graeme McDowell kept his cool on the final day to claim his first major at the US Open. His final-day 74, which took him to level par for the tournament, was enough to carry him past the challenge of Gregory Havret by one shot at Pebble Beach. McDowell's victory saw him become the first European to win the event since Tony Jacklin in 1970. On Fathers' Day, the Ulsterman celebrated his win with his dad Kenny. "I guess the golfing Gods smiled on me," McDowell said.
Rugby union's first ever World Cup final. It promised to be a classic. New Zealand reached it by scoring 70 points in each of their first two matches (May 22), then thrashing Scotland 30-3 in the quarter-finals and Wales in the semis (June 14). They had a tremendous pack, a points machine at fly-half, and backs who were full of tries. Oh, and they were playing at home in Auckland. But France had survived a thrilling semi against Australia (June 13), their forwards were competitive and their backs dashing. They had a real puncher's chance. But they never got a chance to use it: they simply didn't have enough ball. The All Blacks were the only really fit team in the competition, years ahead in preparation, professional with a small P. France matched them for the first hour, but even then they were 9-0 down at half-time thanks to a try by top flanker Michael Jones. Two penalty goals by Grant Fox put New Zealand 15-0 up, then a burst of scoring settled the match. Their scrum-half and captain David Kirk scored a try, followed by another from powerful right wing John Kirwan. Fox added another two more penalties, so by the time Pierre Berbizier scored a converted try in the last minute, France were 29-3 down. Amazingly, despite producing other teams as good as this one, it was the only time the All Blacks have ever won the Cup.
In tennis, the first Fed Cup Final went right to the wire. At Queen's Club in London, the USA beat Britain 3-0 in the semi-final but went 1-0 down to Australia. On a fast indoor wood court, Darlene Hard was no match for big Margaret Smith (later Margaret Court) and lost 6-3 6-0. Then 19-year-old Billie Jean Moffitt (later King) lost the opening set to Lesley Turner, and the USA were on the point of defeat. But little Miss Moffitt kept serving and volleying, winning the second set 6-0 and the third 6-3. So everything rested on the doubles, which turned on an epic second set. Smith and Turner took the first. The following year, they won the Wimbledon title. But Hard won it four times and King ten times. Here at Queen's, they were grateful that Smith sometimes froze at big moments: she served for the Cup at 5-4 and 9-8 but lost both games. Hard and King won 13-11 on their fifth set point, then broke Turner to lead 3-1 and win the decider 6-3. Smith and Turner had their revenge in the next year's final.
The first Roberto Duran v Sugar Ray Leonard fight didn't end as amazingly as the second. But it was a much better fight, between two all-time greats. Leonard was the new star of world boxing, a dazzling boxer with a severe punch, Olympic gold medallist turned WBC welterweight champion. He'd taken the title from the great Wilfred Benítez, flattened poor Dave 'Boy' Green (March 31), and was unbeaten in 27 pro fights. Duran was already a legend, WBA lightweight champion from June 26, 1972 until he gave it up in 1979. It looked a classic boxer v puncher match-up. Could Duran's hands of stone break through Leonard's defensive web? It didn't turn out that way, mainly because neither boxer was that one-dimensional. Yes, Duran took an early lead with some fierce punching, especially a right hand to the jaw in the second round. But he almost matched Leonard for skill - while Leonard showed an unexpectedly strong chin. It's why they were such giants of the sport. The points decision was close but unanimous in Duran's favour. As they tired towards the end, he leaned and held and manhandled the champion round the ring. Leonard's 'tactical advisor', the famous Angelo Dundee, called it 'a very good wrestling match'. He was determined there wouldn't be another one when the rematch took place on November 25.
A grim day for British Isles rugby in the Southern Hemisphere. The latest stop on England's Tour To Hell was Dunedin. The 76-0 massacre by Australia (June 6) was followed by a mere slaughter by the All Blacks, who won 64-22. England conceded only nine tries this time, and no-one was unduly surprised when lock forward Danny Grewcock was sent off for kicking Anton Oliver in the head or when Jonny Woodward was injured out of the tour. Within seven minutes of Grewcock's red card, New Zealand scored three tries. England went on to lose 40-10 in Auckland then just 18-0 in South Africa.
Today was a favourite day for deciding US Open golf tournaments. After their epic duel at the British Open on July 9, 1977, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson staged a repeat in the 1982 US Open at Pebble Beach, where Watson showed his liking for links golf with a third-round 68 that put him three shots ahead of the Bear. In the last round, Nicklaus took the lead at the seventh and was very unlucky to lose. Watson led by a stroke going into the difficult short 17th. When he found the rough, a play-off loomed. But Watson chipped straight in for a birdie. It was the only US Open he ever won.
In 1999, Payne Stewart won the US Open for the second time at the age of 42. A birdie at the 71st hole, sandwiched by long par-saving putts at the 16th and 18th, left him one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson. Stewart died in a plane crash later that year. Ten years later, Mickelson finished runner-up in the Open for the fifth time (June 22).
At the 1988 US Open, reigning British Open champion Sandy Lyle shot 68 to share the lead after the first round, only to fall away badly after that. But another British golfer stayed the course. Middle rounds of 67 and 68 saw Nick Faldo into a play-off with Curtis Strange, who took the lead at the seventh hole and kept the squeeze on until Faldo bogeyed three of the last four holes. Strange won the Open again the following year. Faldo never did.
Arnold Palmer won a Major for the seventh and last time on April 12, 1964, but should have added an eighth today in 1966. A 66 in the second round of the US Open set him up for a typical charge in the last. And what a charge, even by his standards. He went out in 32, which should have turned the last nine holes into a procession. Except safety-first golf wasn't really Arnie's thing. That's why they loved him. When he was hot, he could burn up any golf course; when he wasn't - well, yesterday was a case in point. Seven shots ahead of 1959 champion Billy Casper, Palmer dropped the lot and was forced into a play-off, where those last nine holes were waiting again. Two up at the turn, he dropped shots at four of the next six holes. He was so bad that he dropped further behind even when Casper took six at the 16th. A birdie at the last gave Casper the title by four strokes.
Arnie played in the Open for the last time in 1994, when he was 64. Ernie Els won the event for the first time - but it was the first Major heartache for the runner-up, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie. He eventually set a record by finishing second five times without ever winning a Major (June 18, 2006). Today he got as far as a play-off with Els and Loren Roberts but finished four shots adrift and had to watch Els win at the second extra hole. Els won the Open again three years later.
Scottish lightweight boxer Jim Watt won the WBC title on April 17, 1979, defended it against the stylish Howard Davis on June 7, 1980, and saw off other credible challengers like Charlie Nash and Sean O'Grady. But like other Terry Lawless boxers John H Stracey and Maurice Hope, he lost his title when he stepped up in class. Nicaraguan Alexis Argüello had won world titles at featherweight (from the great Rubén Olivares) and super-featherweight. Now he completed the treble against Watt - and he was happy to come to Wembley to do it, knowing he was higher class. As always, Watt made what he could of the situation. He knew that if he attacked he'd run into some ferocious counter-punching (or, as Argüello put it, 'If he comes forward, he is dead'), so he backpedalled throughout. Even then, he took a lot of punches, but he was on his feet at the end of 15 rounds. He retired immediately afterwards, having made the most from his talent and opportunities. Damning with faint praise, but praise all the same. Argüello made four defences of the title before vacating it.
Doris Hart was born in St Louis. An attack of polio left her unable to walk until she was three, and she was a left with a permanent limp. Toothy, leggy, and thin - the blueprint for one of the best tennis players of all time. Not mobile enough from the baseline, she made herself into an all-court player, with a volley made for doubles. She reached no fewer than eight finals at Wimbledon, winning four, as well as winning the mixed six years in a row. She wasn't bad at singles either, winning all four Grand Slam events, including Wimbledon in 1951 and twice in France. At the US Championships, she was runner-up four times before winning in 1954 and 1955. She lost her share of finals, but then she played in a golden age, up against other top Yanks like Louise Brough, Margaret Osborne duPont, and the invincible Little Mo, who beat Hart to complete the Grand Slam (September 7, 1953). With her handicaps, Hart's record is right up there with the best. Better.
The youngest tennis player in any Davis Cup match. Mohammed Akhtar Hossein of Bangladesh was only 13 when he and his partner Abu Hena Tasawar Collins (a positively ancient 24) lost in the doubles against Myanmar (Burma).