Europe Wins, U.S. Loses and Questions to Follow

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By DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press

MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — The Ryder Cup didn't end with the closing ceremony at Medinah.

In a tradition that began about the time Europe started winning with regularity, no Ryder Cup can be put to bed without second-guessing. It figures to last for at least a week, maybe until 2014 when the next one is played in Scotland.

[PHOTOS: The 2012 Ryder Cup.]

Was it wise for U.S. captain Davis Love III to bench every player, particularly Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, for at least one match to keep them fresh for Sunday? Why did he put Tiger Woods in the 12th slot for singles? Does he regret his captain picks? Did it cost the Americans?

And was it really necessary for Justin Timberlake to read a poem during the opening ceremony?

Here's what will be — should be — remembered about one of the greatest Ryder Cup competitions in its 85-year history.

Justin Rose made a 35-foot putt from the back of the 17th green.

It's really that simple.

"That was one of the best feelings of my life to make that putt," Rose said.

Martin Kaymer looked calm as ever when he holed a 6-foot par putt on the 18th that assured Europe of keeping that shiny gold trophy. Francesco Molinari won a half-point on a short par putt that Tiger Woods conceded for Europe to claim an outright win, 14½-13½.

This was not a Ryder Cup to contemplate failures. This was a Ryder Cup to celebrate success.

And no match — no birdie putt — was more significant than what Rose did on the 17th green. He was down one hole when his putt with plenty of pace disappeared into the cup to square the match. Rose made a 12-foot birdie on the 18th for a 1-up win over Mickelson, but odds are that Lefty wins that match if Rose doesn't make the putt.

But he did, just like Justin Leonard on the 17th hole at Brookline when the Americans rallied from a four-point deficit.

In happier times Sunday, Love had said he thought Jason Dufner in the No. 9 slot was going to be the clincher for the Americans. If not for Rose winning his match, it could very well have come down to Dufner's win over Peter Hanson.

So maybe Love had it right, and he lost out to a great putt.

"We had a lot of guys today that played well and just got beat," Love said. "They got beat by some holed putt, chip-ins, some incredible shots, and some matches got flipped at the end on long putts and great saves by the other team. I have to congratulate them on the way they played. They played great."

Ultimately, this Ryder Cup turned out the way everyone expected.

It featured the two strongest teams ever, all 24 players among the top 35 in the world ranking. Graeme McDowell was looking over the team rosters a few weeks out and said, "There's a good buzz. I think it's set up to be an awesome Ryder Cup. I really do."

And it was.

The best Ryder Cup matches — really, the best golf tournaments — are those that are won and not lost. Kiawah Island, where Bernhard Langer missed a 6-foot par putt on the last hole, left too many people with a sick feeling. McDowell making a 15-foot birdie putt at Wales was great stuff.

European captain Mark James was a hero on Saturday night in Brookline for sticking with the same partnerships in building a 10-6 lead. He was vilified for sitting out three players until Sunday, all of whom lost. Even this year, Jose Maria Olazabal was taking his share of criticism for not playing Ian Poulter in fourballs on Friday, and for sending out Lee Westwood on Saturday morning after he didn't show much game on the opening day.

Mickelson and Bradley won three matches by playing 15, 17 and 12 holes in a dominant display. Why not send them out? For one thing, Mickelson didn't feel like he would have been effective. There's a history of teams going four matches and running out of steam, such as Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik at Brookline. They went 3-0, fought for a halve in the fourth session, and neither made it past 15 holes on Sunday before losing.

Love was grilled Sunday evening about sitting them out until Mickelson stepped in.