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US Humbled But Gracious in Defeat

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SUTTON COLDFIELD, England ' The contrast wasnt just visible, it was palpable.
 
The Europeans floated on air in the pressroom Sunday after claiming the Ryder Cup, 15-12. They laughed; they joked; they behaved like school kids after the final bell had awarded them a summer reprieve.
 
They drank beer and champagne. The Americans drank water.
 
Fifteen men ' 12 players, one captain, one co-captain and a moderator ' sat in row. Their faces elongated caricatures of disappointment.
 
There were a few smiles, but mostly their pallets were void of expression ' save the one of disbelief.
 
But this time there were no hard feeling from the losing side. Rather only appreciation and respect for those responsible for their dismay.
 
I think we played pretty well. I just think they played exceptionally well. We got beat, said U.S. captain Curtis Strange. We got a European butt-whooping.
 
The U.S. entered the final day of the 34th Ryder Cup at The Belfry tied with their counterparts, but the Europeans dominated the singles format, 7 - 4.
 
While European captain Sam Torrance put his top players out early Sunday, Strange held his to the end. He bet on the fact that his team could keep it close at the start, and pull away at the finish.
 
It was a bet he wouldn't win.
 
Europe won five of the first eight singles matches, and halved another. They soaked the scoreboard in European blue, influencing the partisan crowd with every victory. The deficit grew and grew, reaching a point to where Tiger Woods match, the 12th and final one of the day, was insignificant.
 
Stranges method had backfired, but he remained resilient in its madness.
 
I would do the same thing the next day and the next day, Strange said. We just didnt play our best.
 
His team agreed, placing no blame on their captain, but giving all credit to their opponents. Such was the case for Scott Hoch, who was in the first match out, and got blitzed by Colin Montgomerie, 5-and-4.
 
My hats off to him, said Hoch, who halved his singles match with Montgomerie in the 1997 Ryder Cup. I was ready for him, I thought. And it looks like he was more ready for me than I was for him.
 
This Ryder Cup ended differently for the Americans than the last. In 1999, they dominated the singles to overcome a four-point deficit. They celebrated; they laughed; they drank beer and champagne.
 
But the end result was marred by controversy. Overzealous patriots taunting their visitors. A storming of the green with a match in progress.
 
They wont leave England with the Cup this time. But theyll take home a measure of respect, and the knowledge that things may have actually turned out better than three years ago.
 
This Ryder Cup was played in the fashion that the Ryder Cup was initially designed. And it was a beautiful week, said Woods. Obviously, we didnt come out on top, but it was the best thing for golf to have it played this way. The fans were (partisan), which is the way they should be, but they were fair. And they were respectful.
 
Added Strange: The fans were fantastic, the atmosphere was something that we will never forget, and the guys hold their heads high. And well be back in two years.
 
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches