Sergio Stars in European Victory

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04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The first person to get hoisted in the air was Bernhard Langer, the champagne-soaked captain of the European Ryder Cup team.
 
Then it was time to lift up the star. Sergio Garcia.
 
How appropriate.
 
The flamboyant Spaniard took care of the lone omission on his Ryder Cup resume, winning a crucial singles match with Phil Mickelson on Sunday that stymied any hopes of an American comeback.
 
With fist-pumping emotion that stirred his own team and rattled the Americans, Garcia completed a remarkable weekend at Oakland Hills by standing front and center -- four wins and a draw -- in Europe's most dominating victory.
 
Mickelson was 2 up after Garcia made a mess of the eighth hole, stirring hopes the Americans could pull off an unprecedented rally.
 
At the time, the top five U.S. players -- a top-loaded order that also included Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry -- were winning their matches, threatening to overcome a formidable 11-5 deficit after the first two days.
 
Oakland Hills was rocking with chants of 'USA! USA! USA!' The Europeans were on the ropes.
 
That's when Garcia took over.
 
The Spaniard hit a soaring tee shot at the par-3 ninth that nestled 18 feet from the flag. He calmly rolled in the uphill birdie putt, cutting Mickelson's lead in half.
 
At the 10th, Garcia made another birdie, this one from 20 feet. After retrieving his ball from the bottom of the cup, he pumped his fist and screamed 'Yeah! Come on!' -- a matador challenging someone to take him down.
 
Lefty couldn't.
 
Garcia made his third straight birdie at the 11th, sticking a shot from 130 yards to 2 feet. He was ahead for the first time in the match, and one could feel the momentum shifting all over the course.
 
As if inspired by Garcia's performance, the Europeans farther down the board began to take control of their own matches. The crowd got quieter. The Europeans in the gallery began congregating around the 18th green, sensing their team would soon be celebrating there.
 
How right they were.
 
Mickelson bogeyed the par-3 13th, putting Garcia 2 up. Three holes later, it was over. Lefty inexplicably attempted a knockdown shot over the water at the treacherous 16th, watching in dismay as his ball rolled back into the pond.
 
Garcia had played it safe, punching his ball away from the water and coming up just short of the green. He rolled the ball to about 6 feet and made the par putt that ended the match, 3 and 2.
 
It was the first European point of the day, but it wouldn't be the last. One by one, Garcia's teammates followed his lead while he scurried back and forth between the last couple of holes, cheering them on.
 
Lee Westwood sank the putt that ensured the Europeans would take the chalice back to their side of the Atlantic. Colin Montgomerie made the putt that gave his team an outright victory. But no one was more valuable than Garcia.
 
He played five times over three days, winning four times and halving the other match. While Westwood had the same record and Montgomerie was the sentimental favorite, Garcia set the emotional tone for the Europeans.
 
Sure, some get annoyed at his antics. The fist-pumping. The screams. The in-your-face banter. Whatever. It's clear that Garcia thrives in the pressure-cooker of team golf.
 
Just look at his record.
 
Only 24, he already has played in three Ryder Cups. His record in the team matches (better ball and alternate shot) is a stunning 9-1-2. He's played with three partners -- Westwood, Luke Donald and Jesper Parnevik -- all with equal success.

As he said Saturday night on his way to the clubhouse, 'There's nothing better.'
 
The only question: Could Garcia win a match on his own? He lost singles in both 1999 and '02. Now, he's got one in the win column.
 
As the Europeans celebrated on the 18th green at Oakland Hills, Langer was lifted up by Thomas Levet. Then Garcia jumped on Darren Clarke's back, pumping his arms up and down in tune with the raucous crowd.
 
'Sergio! Sergio! Ser-gee-ohhh!' they chanted.
 
How appropriate.
 
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