Mahan to blame for U.S. Ryder Cup loss? Hardly

By now, Hunter Mahan surely has realized the sun comes up again. Day after day after day.

And with each day that passes, the sting of being the man from whom Europe figuratively wrested the Ryder Cup in all likelihood eases a bit.

It hit pretty hard in the immediate aftermath at Celtic Manor, where Mahan struggled more than once to get words out as he discussed the pressure that went with having the Cup tilt on the final match's result.

"I don't know if I'll ever see that again, no matter where we go," the Texas pro said.

Hey, somebody had to go last. Credit Mahan for embracing the assignment. He never made a bogey in that final match until the clinching hole. The downside is he didn't make any birdies, either.

"A tough deal for him," Steve Stricker acknowledged.

Meanwhile, the rest of the U.S. team had to be searching for other places that elusive half-point could have been acquired.

It's no different than a basketball team that falls by one, where missed free throws and shots that rimmed out can drive a coach or player nuts.

"Lots of us are looking at each other thinking, 'God, one half-point, and we get to take the Cup back home. One full point and we win the Ryder Cup,'" Jim Furyk said.

Added Phil Mickelson: "We could look anywhere throughout those 28 points for that half a point."

Three missed opportunities jump out.

Stewart Cink: He was the only U.S. player who didn't lose a match, but Cink could have made a bigger impact by beating Rory McIlroy in Monday's second match. With a chance to put his spikes on McIlroy's neck, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 17.

Cink nearly won anyway when McIlroy's bunker blast at No. 18 rolled back in, but the Ulsterman's second attempt was enough to save par and earn the halve.

Furyk: Three down with five holes left against Luke Donald, the FedEx Cup champ closed the deficit to one by the 18th tee. But after a wise layup at the par 5, Furyk pitched up short and watched his ball roll into a bunker.

Mickelson: Though his 0-3 team record left ample room for scrutiny, Sunday was the most glaring. He missed eight of 17 greens in a 2-and-1 loss to Ian Poulter/Martin Kaymer, didn't convert a birdie chance at No. 8 and watched a par save at No. 14 lip out to give the hole away.

"I let some of these opportunities to gain points for our team slide," Mickelson said. "It does hurt more than some of the past losses."

An ache, certainly, that cries out to be shared.

jshain@tribune.com

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