With the first six matches in the books, the U.S. now led 12-10 and needed only 2½ points to win the Cup for the first time since 1993. Three of the late matches were all but over early on the back nine—Lawrie was 4 up at the turn, Steve Pate was 3 up on Miguel Angel Jimenez after 14, and Jim Furyk was 4 up on Sergio Garcia through 12. That brought the de facto score to 14-11. The crucial blow among the three was Furyk's dismantling of Garcia. The whiz kid from Spain had been sensational in teaming with Parnevik for four matches, but lost amid their spectacular recovery shots and seamless ham-and-egging was the fact that Garcia was not striking the ball well. "Sergio was depending on Jesper at times," Furyk said after his 4-and-3 victory. "He was missing a lot of fairways. I felt like I needed to keep the ball in play. I hit every fairway, missed maybe one green and just kept the pressure on him." Said Garcia, "All I can tell you is, it was different playing without Jesper."
Needing but one more halve, the U.S. suffered a blow when Mark O'Meara collapsed on the 18th hole and lost one up to Irish rookie Padraig Harrington. Now only two matches remained—José María Olazábal versus Justin Leonard and Colin Montgomerie versus Payne Stewart—and the whole course seemed to tilt in the direction of the 17th hole, where both groups were playing at all square. We know what happened from there, but it was the aftermath of what turned out to be Leonard's Cup-clinching 45-foot birdie putt that dominated the postround discussion.
By banging in the oceangoer, a jubilant Leonard touched off a madcap celebration that saw U.S. players, caddies and wives cavorting on the green. This was highly unusual, given that Olazábal, one of the game's best putters, still had a 25-footer remaining to halve the hole and keep Europe in the hunt.
Well, it wouldn't be a Ryder Cup Sunday without a few bruised feelings, especially in the wake of such an extraordinary turn of events. At least some on the European side kept their senses of humor. As the American players celebrated their victory outside the clubhouse, a handful of sodden European caddies gathered on the back side of the locker room building and serenaded passersby. Their song of choice? Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, culled from the closing crucifixion scene in Monty Python's The Life of Brian.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]