In many respects, it was an anticlimactic moment of glory, but every captain in the history of this event will confirm that – in this setting, where anxieties rage and momentum threatens to engulf – anti-climax happens to be wonderful. It means that your players have completed their job early and left their rivals stranded with golfers still out on the course.
Thus it was on this occasion, with Shane Lowry finishing off his match against Jordan Spieth with a half and, in the anchor role, the impressive rookie Bob MacIntyre striding clear of US Open champion Wyndham Clark with a 2&1 success. MacIntyre had been bereft of a hug on the 17th, with the party already in full swing around the final green. There were sighs of relief.
They thought it would be done well before 5pm after going into the singles at 10½-5½, requiring just four points. The mood was as if Europe had won by a whisker. But if they had, then it was a long whisker. They stormed to a 4-0 lead in Friday’s opening foursomes, stretched it to 6½-1½ by the end of that first day and then retained this five-point lead all the way to the line.
Of course, there were instances in the battle when the blue-and-gold fears would suddenly rise and a nightmare scenario would begin to make sense. The memory of the “Miracle of Medinah” was constantly in the backdrop, of how Europe came from being 10-4 down on the Saturday afternoon, and 10-6 that evening, at a forbidding Chicago layout, to prevail 14½-13½. If Europe could do it, so could the US.
Indeed, if the US emulated that particular Sunday – 8½-3½ – the contest would be a draw and Zach Johnson’s men would retain the cup. However, that was a “miracle” and this was to be no Resurrection in Rome, no Lazarus in Lazio. Not when the Ryder Cup has since become even more skewed by home bias – with the influence of the hostile support now just as important as the course set-up – that the last five matches since Medinah have essentially been blow-outs.