NEWPORT, Wales — When it ended, the scene was like something out of Mardi Gras. It was a Lakers victory celebration, only a continent away. Europe doesn't have a Super Bowl, but this will do, at least until the next big soccer extravaganza.
On a Monday afternoon, on a wonderful Twenty Ten course that had been turned into a giant mud pie by days of rain and now was basking in sunshine, Europe won the Ryder Cup. In a competition of golf, with an overwhelming aroma of nationalism, it defeated the big 'ol, rich USA, which is always special for Europe.
Beating New Zealand wouldn't quite be the same.
Europe winning the Ryder Cup has happened a lot lately, especially on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The last time the U.S. came here and won was 1993. European sports fans like that a lot. U.S. fans, with so many more things to choose from and be loyal to, are less invested. But every Ryder Cup loss to Europe, no matter where it is played, ratchets up the interest in the U.S.
Expect big crowds and much noise at Medinah Country Club near Chicago in the autumn of 2012.
This one had enough drama for several Super Bowls. The U.S. needed 14 points to retain the Cup. It got 13½. Europe won by the width of a pencil, which was about how much Graeme McDowell's putt on No. 16 had to wiggle at the end to drop into the hole for what was essentially the winning shot. As it rolled toward the cup, you got the feeling that all of Europe was willing it in.
That put McDowell and Europe ahead, 2 up, with two holes to play.
It was the last match out, the anchor spot. Carrying that load for the U.S. was Hunter Mahan, who volunteered for it.
McDowell, this year's U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach, was candid about being the guy in the hot seat for team, country and continent.
"I hoped I wasn't going to be needed," he said, calling the last nine holes the hardest of his life. "I was hoping my caddie was going to give me the nod I could relax, that we had done the job."
Mahan went to the par-3 17th knowing that he had to win the last two holes. Not tie them, win them both. That halved match would leave the two teams with 14 points each, but because the U.S. is the defending champion, it would allow the U.S. team to keep the treasured trophy.
After Mahan muffed his chip shot and missed a par putt, all he could do was walk to McDowell, concede and shake his hand.
Past U.S. teams have been accused of not taking this seriously, of not being as emotionally invested as the Europeans. If body language is any measure, Team USA was a devastated group afterward.
Tiger Woods, who won his match, said, "We came so close, it's a shame."
Jim Furyk, who lost his, said, "There are lots of guys looking at one another and saying … one-half point. This falls on all of us."
U.S. captain Corey Pavin, who led by preaching togetherness and factoring out all emotion, said, "I'm content with everything, except the result."