Strong as a team, strong as individuals, the Americans rode the emotion of a flag-waving crowd and its two Kentucky players on Sunday to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1999.
Kenny Perry, the 48-year-old native son who felt this week would define his career, was part of an early push that swung momentum toward the Americans. Then came fellow Kentuckian J.B. Holmes, blasting drives over the trees to birdie his last two holes and position the United States for a victory it felt was overdue.
Dressed in red shirts ' the Sunday color of Tiger Woods, who could only watch from home while recovering from knee surgery ' the Americans erupted into hugs and tears behind the 17th green.
I poured my heart and soul into this for two years, U.S. captain Paul Azinger said, his voice cracking. The players poured their heart and soul into this for one week. They deserved it. I couldnt be happier.
Ben Curtis and Chad Campbell, the final player picked for this U.S. team, won the final two matches for a lopsided score that for the last three years had been posted in European blue.
United States 16 1/2 , Europe 11 1/2 .
It was the largest margin of victory for the Americans since 1981. And it was only fitting that Furyk won the decisive point.
He felt hollow six years ago at The Belfry watching Paul McGinley make a par putt that clinched victory for Europe, the start of three straight victories that extended its domination in golfs most passionate event.
The only U.S. victory over the last 15 years was in 1999, and only after Justin Leonard knocked in a 45-foot birdie putt to complete the greatest comeback ever in the Miracle at Brookline.
This time, it was the Americans who produced unlikely stars ' Boo Weekley, from the backwoods of the Florida Panhandle; Anthony Kim, the brash kid from the streets of LA; and Hunter Mahan, who tied a U.S. record by winning 3 1/2 points as a captains pick. Mahan was the only player to play all five matches at Valhalla without losing.
Even so, the biggest star might have been Azinger.
It was his idea to overhaul the qualifying system, which he felt was keeping the Americans from fielding their best team. He also doubled his captains picks, and they all brought something.
If we win, Ill go down as having the lowest IQ of any genius who ever lived, Azinger said this summer.
European captain Nick Faldo wont get off that easy.
The British press blistered him for benching Garcia and Lee Westwood ' the most successful European tandem ' on Saturday, the first time either of them had ever missed a match. Even more peculiar was putting double major winner Padraig Harrington, Westwood and Ian Poulter in the final three matches Sunday.
The Ryder Cup was over before their matches were over.
Poulter closed out Steve Stricker, 3 and 2, to go 4-1 for the week and validate Faldo picking him over Darren Clarke. Even so, Europe didnt quite have the team spirit that carried it to record victories over the Americans the last two times. And sure didnt get the performance from some of its best players.
Garcia, Westwood and Harrington failed to win a match all week.