But now, finally, he led Faldo one up with three of those skinny fairways and hard greens left—greens he had specialized in hitting his entire career.
Except that he fanned a six-iron right of the green at 16, fanned another one right of 17 and left a three-iron short of 18 from the laser-middle of the fairway. And then Faldo, having to punch out of the rough after his drive on 18, hit the most delicate 90-yard wedge to four feet. Strange chipped seven feet short and missed. Faldo stepped up to his four-footer, tried to swallow the sweater his mouth was knitting ("Everything but my putter was moving," he admitted) and knocked it home. If you're scoring, Strange is now 6-12-2 in Ryder Cup matches.
Still, as Paul Azinger says of him, "the guy has enough hair on his ass to make a ponytail," and Strange stepped up to ever) question after the match. Most of them were brutal. "There's a flaw in my swing," he said. "And I'm not sure how much longer I'm gonna fight it."
Now it was up to Haas, but he was losing to Walton, one of Gallacher's sacrificial lambs who didn't know his place. Walton is a red-cheeked Dubliner who almost didn't make it to Rochester. As it became apparent late this summer that two of the Fab Four would not qualify on points, Europe's top players lobbied to increase Gallacher's number of captain's picks from two to at least three. Their demands fell on deaf ears, and Walton played his way on as the 10th man.
And then he played his heart out against Haas. He slipped only once, missing a four-footer for par at 17 that would have clinched it. Still, Haas was one down going to the 18th tee. Cue the music and run it again, Sam: Haas pops his drive up into the trees left, punches out, spins a wedge off the front of the green and chips six feet past. That left Walton to know forever the happiness of needing an uphill two-putt from eight feet for a bogey to win the Ryder Cup.
"Maybe the Americans know me now," peeped a delirious Walton, draped in an Irish flag and about 50 rabid fans. "Tell 'em I'm related to all those Waltons on that TV show."
And off he jogged into a drenching European party that nobody expected—nobody except you-know-who.
"I can't tell you what this means to me," Gallacher said, his tears spilling into his two glasses of champagne. "It's just...I can't." He had said all along he had the best players, and he may have been right. Every European team member won a point.
It's funny, but some were saying that if the U.S. had walloped the Euros as predicted, it would be the end of the great era of Ryder Cup matches. With the Fab Four getting closer to their gold-watch parties and not many stars on the way up, U.S. routs were supposed to start piggybacking, and the Ryder Cup would revert to a complicated dinner party with some golf thrown in for effect. But with this result the U.S. leads 5-4 since Europe joined the fray in 1979, and the next installment, in Spain in '97, looks like it could be epic.
A long time ago a U.S. captain named Walter Hagen, a Rochester native, lost the Ryder Cup on a dicey choice and tried to put it all in perspective. "To lose in a game is not a national calamity," he said. "This will act as a tonic all around. America will prepare to win the cup back, while Britain...will go from strength to strength."