From somewhere in that sky deliriously clogged with corks and hats and shirts and roar and glee came the best thing of all: a pair of dark, wraparound, screw-you sunglasses. That's how you knew that everything about American golf had changed.
What's weird was that up until Sunday it looked as if nothing had. The U.S. Ryder Cup team arrived in Boston with all the emotion of wilted arugula. No team spirit. No camaraderie. Just the same old story: 12 players, 12 Lears.
David Duval had called the Ryder Cup "another exhibition." Four players had wanted pay for play. At the opening ceremony Tiger Woods chomped gum through The Star-Spangled Banner behind black sunglasses. The Americans got hate mail. They were heckled. Duval played part of a Thursday practice round by himself, prompting one fan to holler, "Hey, David, playing with all your friends?"
Well, just about. Coining in, Duval had about as many Tour pals as five-putts. Being shy, bookish and having dinner every night with the Marriott room-service guy doesn't help.
The European players, meanwhile, were breaking all of Bela Karolyi's hug records. They read each other's putts, kissed each other's wives, walked down fairways linked at the elbow.
But then an impossible, preposterous, wonderful thing began to happen. The 12 American CEOs in spikes started melting a little. They started acting like people. Better, they started becoming teammates. Maybe it was the team haircuts that registered 13 on the Stimpmeter. Maybe it was what Duval said when everybody was just about to leave a meeting on Thursday night. "You might have read I don't want to be here," he said through teary eyes. "I do. I am passionate about winning this." Maybe it was the way their captain, Ben Crenshaw, kept looking at them with those aching blue eyes and saying how much he admired them, even after they'd gone out and laid the worst opening-day egg for the U.S. in Ryder Cup history. Whatever it was, Crenshaw found a Super Glue.
Even though the U.S. was down 10-6 after two days, even though no team had ever come back from three points to win on the final day, forget four, the unheard-of notion of American togetherness started to spread like a sappy chain letter. In a Saturday night meeting, every player spoke and every player cried. "Every night I go to bed with a smile on my face," Woods said. "And every morning I wake up with a smile on my face, because I can't wait to come to the team room and be with my friends." His speech stunned and then touched his teammates.
Crazier still, the Americans went out the next morning and played as if they cared for each other. A guy would thump some outmatched Swede or a lost Frenchman and sprint off to find a teammate in trouble. Duval punched out Jesper Parnevik 5 and 4, then raced rabidly around the 14th green, pumping the crowd to ecstacy with his fists, exhorting the thousands lining the par-5 fairway to chant, "U! S! A!" Yes, David Duval.
Behind him, Justin Leonard trudged along the 10th fairway—three holes down to Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal, needing at least a tie for the U.S. to win the Cup—crying. Just then, teammate Davis Love III sidled up to him and said, "You can tell me to leave if you want, but I want you to know something: You can do this."
Leonard promptly lost 10 and after halving 11 was four down with seven holes to play. Still Love stayed with him. Suddenly, all heaven broke loose. Leonard started making a beanpot full of putts, winning four of the next five holes and then burying a 45-foot bomb at 17 that won the Cup and sent the Yanks into a fit of boorish, shameful and ridiculously emotional behavior. Wasn't it great?