Graeme McDowell withstood the greatest pressure of his career to secure the winning point as Europe — led by Ian Poulter and Luke Donald — regained the Ryder Cup after fending off a brilliant United States comeback yesterday.
McDowell, a Northern Irishman playing in the final singles match at Celtic Manor with everything on the line, held his nerve on the 17th to beat Hunter Mahan 3-and-1 and give the home team a 14.5-13.5 overall victory.
After a seemingly interminable week of rain delays and the first-ever Monday finish at a Ryder Cup, the patient fans who turned up to watch the biennial team competition in big numbers were blessed with a last day to savor.
Poulter crushed Matt Kuchar 5-and-4 and Donald beat Jim Furyk 1-up before the Americans clawed their way back. Rookie Rickie Fowler stole a valuable half after brilliantly birdieing the last four holes against Italian Edoardo Molinari.
With the overall score tantalizingly poised at 13.5-13.5, McDowell sank a curling birdie putt from 12 feet on the 16th green to go 2-up on Mahan before securing the win with a conceded par at the 17th.
European players, caddies and hundreds of fans swarmed across the green to swamp McDowell in jubilant celebration as chants of “ole, ole, ole,” echoed across the Usk valley and champagne bottles were uncorked.
Meanwhile, Mahan — a 28-year-old with nearly $15 million in career earnings, and who is engaged to a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader — seemed to take the loss especially hard.
In the postmatch news conference, Mahan was the first of the 12 Americans to be asked for his impressions of the final day. Clearly struggling, he opened and closed his mouth several times but could not muster a word.
Phil Mickelson stepped in to take the question, putting a comforting arm around his teammate.