McIlroy delivered his point as Europe won its first five matches, an onslaught that knocked the Americans — and their fans — flat.
"Coming down the stretch this afternoon, there was some amazing periods where you just didn't hear anything on the golf course," Justin Rose said. "That's really what we were striving for."
It was Rose's match that might have been the most damaging. On the verge of losing to Phil Mickelson, he holed a 12-foot par putt to halve the 16th and made a 35-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green to win the hole.
He then closed out the match with a 12-foot birdie on the last hole, and Mickelson could only applaud and congratulate Rose.
"When it looked like I might be able to stop some of the momentum on the board, they were able to get another point," Mickelson said. "I thought that match, as early as it was, was a very pivotal one."
Still, it wasn't until the very end that Europe's victory was assured. Martin Kaymer had to make a 6-foot par putt to win his match against Steve Stricker. If he missed, Tiger Woods was in the fairway behind him, ready to take the final point the Americans needed.
Kaymer poured it in to beat Stricker, and the celebration was on — at Medinah and back in Germany, which has been looking for a little redemption since Bernhard Langer missed a par putt from about the same length at Kiawah Island in 1991, allowing the Americans to win.
Woods missed a 3½-foot par putt on the 18th hole, and then conceded a par to Francesco Molinari of about that length to halve their match. That extra half-point made it a clear-cut win for Europe, 14½-13½.
"It was already over," Woods said when asked why he conceded. "We came here as a team. This is a team event and the cup had already been retained by Europe, so it was already over."
The only U.S. points came from Dustin Johnson, who went 3-0 in this Ryder Cup, Zach Johnson and unheralded Jason Dufner. Woods and Stricker, the anchors in the lineup, didn't win a single match at Medinah.
"A lot of guys played great," Love said. "They just got beat by a guy that played a little bit better."
And by a team playing with added inspiration.
This is the first Ryder Cup since Ballesteros died in May 2011 of complications from a brain tumor, and his legacy was a key part of Olazabal's preparation. He stitched a silhouette of Ballesteros on the European bags, and his players were dressed Sunday in the navy pants and white polo shirt that were Ballesteros' trademark.
When Olazabal hugged his players at the closing ceremony, he saved the longest embrace for Lee Westwood, the only European who played on the 1997 team with Ballesteros as the captain.
"Seve will always be present with this team," Olazabal said. "He was a big factor for this event for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood."
Understood and believed, even if no one else did.
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