MEDINAH, Ill. -- Both sides know that the Ryder Cup "is what memories and dreams are made of," as European captain Jose Maria Olazabal told his team. The U.S. side knows it all too well, especially after a jarring loss that will be another tough memory and that seemed like a really bad dream.
"We're all kind of stunned," U.S. captain Davis Love III said after his team lost, 141/2-131/2, in an epic collapse that gave Europe its fifth title in the past six Ryder Cups. Only once before had a team come back to win from a 10-6 deficit, as the Europeans did Sunday. That was in 1999, when the United States did it on home soil in front of a boisterously supportive crowd.
It was almost unthinkable that anyone could do it as a visiting team. "We just felt that we had that tiny little chance. The boys proved it today, and made history," said Ian Poulter, who went 4-0-0 in the matches, including a pivotal 2-up win over Webb Simpson Sunday.
Love, a member of that winning U.S. team, said: "We all know what it feels like now from the '99 Ryder Cup. It's a little bit shocking." Jim Furyk, also on the 1999 team and who lost his final two holes and his match Sunday to Sergio Garcia, 1-up, in a late match that turned the whole event heavily toward Europe, said of being on both sides of comebacks: "That was fun. This was pretty miserable."
The turnaround began late Saturday when Europe won the final two matches to come within the fabled 10-6 margin from 13 years ago. Europe's team did more than reverse that bad memory. That the clinching putt was a 6-footer by Germany's Martin Kaymer, closing out Steve Stricker on No. 18, was a bookend to the 6-footer missed on No. 18 by Kaymer's countryman, Bernhard Langer, in 1991.
Hovering above all of that was the memory of Seve Ballesteros, who energized the modern Ryder Cup with his play, often as Olazabal's partner. Asked what the win meant, in that context, Olazabal said, "It means everything," then he had to stop because he was too emotional.
Everything went just right for Europe Sunday, beginning with Rory McIlroy's ride from an Illinois state police officer, after the No. 1 player realized he had misread the starting time by an hour (his phone was on Eastern time). He arrived only 11 minutes before his tee time, and still beat America's hottest player, Keegan Bradley, 2 and 1.
Justin Rose, trailing after 16 holes, made 35- and 12-foot putts to win the final two holes and beat Phil Mickelson. Rose seemed almost apologetic after the biggest moments of his career. "In all the celebration, you spare a thought for them, too, because it has got to sting," the Englishman said.
Oddly, the Americans did not seem fazed during their postmatch news conference. Bubba Watson was chatting and laughing with Simpson and Matt Kuchar (a 3-and-2 loser to Lee Westwood). Mickelson was doing the same with Brandt Snedeker (a 5-and-3 loser to Paul Lawrie).
There had been no laughter on the course during the round, though. Not when Simpson shanked his tee shot on the par-3 eighth or when Furyk and Steve Stricker each missed big putts toward the end.
"I am disappointed that I let 11 other players down and the captains," Stricker (0-4-0) said. "They sent Tiger and me out there at the end to get some points and I didn't."
Tiger Woods was winless (0-3-1), conceding a putt on 18 to halve a lackluster match with Francesco Molinari. By then, the Cup had been clinched and Europe had eclipsed an old bad memory with a good one.