From Brian Keogh at Oakmont
Graeme McDowell took a US Open mauling as a black bear caused commotion at steamy Oakmont.
The Ulsterman, 27, slumped to a final round 77 to finish on 17 over par and well outside the top-15 who earn an automatic US Open return.
As season's second major headed for a back nine battle between Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera, Aaron Baddeley and Steve Striker, McDowell slinked home just inside the top 30.
A birdie at the 17th added some gloss to a forgettable final day for the Irishman that was only lit up by the appearance of a bear on the seventh hole.
And it was McDowell's stablemate Lee Westwood who was breathing a sigh of relief after avoid a grizzly end to his final round.
English star said feared becoming a topic on a Question of Sport as he was two under par for his round as he passed the scene but eventually carded a two over 72 to crash to 18 over.
Westwood said: "I heard the commotion down in the bushes on the right of seven but I had no idea it was a bear. I thought somebody was trying to nick the Lexus car down there.
"Then I saw the people taking one big step back. Can you imagine the question from Sue Barker for the What Happened Next on Question of Sport?
"That would have been typical. Eaten by a grizzly as I was two under par in the final round of the US Open!"
A Pennsylvania State Trooper planned to down what turned out to be a 150lb bear cub with a stun gun and "run like hell" if he had missed.
On a steamy final day, Irish ace McDowell was oblivious to it all as he limped to the turn in four over par 39 with four bogeys in his first five holes.
Three more shots went at the 10th, 12th and 14th before he birdied the driveable 17th to miss out on an automatic invite to 2008 venue Torrey Pines.
And the Ulsterman knows that he will have to work hard on his short game if he is to challenge for Major honours in the future.
Eight shots off the lead starting the day, McDowell said: "Generally I don’t think my short game is good enough to compete at this level in this type of set-up.
"I really need to get back to the drawing board a little bit, learn how to get it up and down from these tougher lies around the greens and get it close on these fast surfaces.
"I know my long game is good enough to compete at this level - by a long stretch my long game is good enough.
"It’s just shows me to win a Major, which I certainly hope to achieve in my career, I’ve just got to improve my short game.
"I feel like that’s the missing link right now. It’s nothing major. Not a complete rethink."
McDowell hit trouble from the start, coming up 10 feet short with his chip after overshooting the first green.
He then bogeyed the third and fourth after tangling with fairway bunkers and the dropped another shot at the par-four fifth after another poor pitch from the rough.
Twenty yards short of the green in two, he slammed his club into the ground after blasting his recovery 40 feet past the hole.
Westwood said he's prefer to go to the dentist than play Oakmont every day of the week.
But McDowell was heading home for a meeting with psychologist Karl Morris and some hard work on his short game.
McDowell said: "I'm back working with Karl Morris again. After this week you'd need it.
"I’m willing to learn and I feel like I’ve been speaking too negatively about my short game over the past two days because everyone else out there is absolutely tearing their hair out around the greens this week.
“It’s absolutely brutal. There’s no one in complete control of their ball around the greens here, absolutely none.
"As long as I don’t take the negatives to heart too much and beat myself up too much I'll be alright."