How tough remains to be seen. Will the three consecutive bogeys that made up the Ryder Cup collapse of 1995 blot out the U.S. Opens of 1988 and '89, and all the other accomplishments of a stellar 19-year career?
The only thing in Strange's past to compare with the Ryder Cup collapse came at the 1985 Masters when, while holding the lead on Sunday, he put balls in the water at the 13th and 15th holes to hand the title to Bernhard Langer. Strange came back from that, but at 30, he was 10 years younger.
"That was tough to swallow, and this is along the same lines," Strange says, "but this is even tougher because you take personal shots."
Most of his peers feel he will rebound, although no one will know until next year, when Strange says he will again play a full schedule.
Wadkins waited until eight days after the Ryder Cup before getting in touch with Strange. "I was concerned about him, and it turns out he was concerned about me," Wadkins says. "But we're both big boys. We've had adversity before. It wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last, unfortunately. I just told him not to worry about it. Number one, he didn't ask to be picked. He's probably the only person who didn't ask to be picked, quite honestly."
The rest of the U.S. team made a concerted effort at Oak Hill not to let Strange become the fall guy. Even Paul Azinger, working for NBC that week, tried to help. He asked Wadkins if he could speak to the devastated team, and when he walked into the team room, Curtis and Sarah Strange were sitting at the same table as Ben and Julie Crenshaw. Ben was in such a state of shock that he just stared blankly as Azinger tried to put the loss in perspective. "I'm sorry this happened," he said, "but you know, 18 months ago I was dying of cancer. The reality here is that this is just golf. You lost as a team. There is not one individual to bear the burden."
Roberts, who also lost on Sunday, recalls that the team was not about to let Strange take the heat alone. "I know Curtis was hurting. I know he felt bad," Roberts says. "That's why we all went to the press room together. That was the only way it could be. It was the whole team. It wasn't Curtis. It wasn't me. It wasn't any one person. We all wanted to face the music together."
The only formal interview Strange has given since that brief session at Oak Hill was nine days later, on a Richmond radio talk show. "When you let Nick out of the bag when you have him beat, it's disappointing," Strange told Al Coleman of WRVH. "When you let down 11 other guys and the captain, it's even more disappointing, especially when you were picked for that reason. You were picked to finish off a match and do well on Sunday when the pressure was on. That's all part of my disappointment.... I didn't come through. I had 11 other guys depending on me. Yeah, you come in as a team and you win and lose as team, but I certainly didn't help the cause Sunday afternoon."
In the weeks since, Strange has continued to search for ways to deal with his disappointment.
Davis Love III, a more successful member of the U.S. team, was not sure Strange had made much progress until he saw him in Las Vegas. "I was worried about him at first, right afterwards, thinking he had already done a little bit of TV, he kind of makes a comeback, gets on the Ryder Cup team, has it thrown on his shoulders the last hole and doesn't come through," Love says. "I thought he might be thinking, 'I've had enough. I don't want to deal with this anymore.' But when I saw him in Vegas, he was in a pretty good mood. I saw him every day, and he was grinding and playing some golf. It just looked like Curtis."