The truth is, they all had a chance to capture the win Sunday.
Graeme McDowell just made the fewest mistakes.
The brutally difficult conditions of Pebble Beach Golf Course truly showed the course's teeth Sunday at the 110th US Open.
Birdies were rare and so were smiles, sighs of relief, and any semblance of confidence among the elite golfers of the world.
Except for Graeme McDowell that is.
The US Open Champ: Graeme McDowell
His textbook par at the 18th and three-over-par round of 74 may not fit the typical Sunday finish for a US Open winner, but McDowell fought relentlessly to earn the illustrious trophy.
McDowell's stylish, V-neck cardigan was just one of the many things he did right this week at Pebble.
He knew not to miss above the hole, limiting and almost totally eliminating three-putts from his scorecard. He rarely missed fairways, putting himself in position to execute birdies.
But more than anything—he was consistent.
McDowell neither made big numbers nor let his emotions get the best of him. As the first European to win the US Open in 40 years, McDowell did it with style and self control.
Contenders Who Lost Their Way
As for everyone else, well—too bad.
Ernie Els (T2) just couldn't capitalize. An early charge branded Els the favorite to roll by McDowell, Mickleson, and Woods. However, his inability to exploit vulnerable pins and putts inside ten feet resulted in a mediocre round and another Open slipped away.
Phil Mickleson (T2) was playing defense far too often. His inconsistency off the tee put him in difficult positions for his approach to the green. Consequently, Mickleson hit few greens and found himself chipping onto greens attempting to save par instead of putting for uphill birdies, which had been his crucial adjustment en route to his brilliant Friday round.
Tiger Woods (T3) emitted more gloominess and misery Sunday than the Pacific coastal weather did all week.
Granted he was not playing excellent golf Sunday—carding four bogeys in his opening nine holes—Tiger scarcely put himself in position to make up for the mistakes made early on.
Throughout the week Woods displayed glimpses of his old, miraculous ways, generating hope that he might be able to pull off an unthinkable recovery Sunday in a return to dominance. However, he will have to settle for another top five finish in this season's second major.
Dustin Johnson (8) just wants to forget Sunday at the Open.
Already Johnson has been branded on the top 10 list of all-time golf chokes. That seems a bit harsh, though his 11-over-par, 82, round doesn't help his cause.
As a two-time Pro-Am winner at Pebble Beach, expectations were high for Johnson entering the Open. He rose to the occasion the first three days and started Sunday in the final pairing with a three-shot lead.
Whether it was a case of major nerves or just bad luck, Johnson's birdie-less round will sting for many rounds to come.
Sunday at the US Open
Prior to the first tee shot being struck Sunday at the US Open, there's always a hype and feverish anticipation for something magical to happen.
But at the 110th US Open, there was not necessarily one shot, one player, or one moment that outshined the rest
If anything, however, this Sunday was definitely riveting.
It was anybody's Open for the players in the final four groups up until the final hole.
Sometimes it's hard to believe when the winners of PGA Tour events finish at 15 to 20-under-par by Sunday. But the level of difficulty at Pebble Beach, paired with the pressure of the US Open, produced an even-par winner.
Pebble Beach humbled the field and provided a sense of relief for fervent golf fans and aspiring golfers that these guys are actually human.