Enter Wadkins at his best. A four-foot birdie at 16 and a 10-footer at 17 cut the Europeans' lead to one up and sent American flags waving. As darkness fell, all drove safely at the 18th. Then Nelson hit to 20 feet. Lyle sent his iron shot to five. Wadkins nearly holed out on the fly, his ball stopping 12 feet away. And finally Langer played a perfect eight-iron from 150 yards to within a foot to end the match.
"I never thought I'd live to see golf played like it was today," said Jacklin. "Incredible is not enough to say."
The U.S. now faced the almost impossible task of having to win nine of the 12 Sunday matches. Nicklaus's only hope was that the Europeans might cool off. "Emotion in golf is fantastic when you're playing well, and so far the Europeans have drowned us with it," he said. "But it can work against you, too."
For a moment Sunday it looked as if they might be choking on some of it. Five of the first seven Europeans bogeyed the relatively easy 1st hole. U.S. hopes were raised when the massive Bean played superbly to beat Woosnam one up. "It hurts when a little bitty fellow outdrives you," the 6'4" Bean said. With most of the other matches tight, it seemed the momentum was swinging toward America.
But then came the troubles at 18, and suddenly the Ryder Cup was in the hands of Crenshaw vs. Darcy. Crenshaw had played poorly all week, and the 35-year-old Darcy was generally considered Europe's weakest player, with a loopy swing and a Ryder Cup record of 0-8-2. But he played well against the frustrated Crenshaw, and when Ben three-putted from 50 feet at the 6th to go 2 down, he slammed his putter, "Little Ben," which he has had since he was 15, and the shaft broke in half.
"I just tapped it down on a walnut, and it snapped," said Crenshaw. "It was like somebody shot me. It took me four holes to recover."
On the 10th hole a European fan cried out to Darcy, "If you can't beat him now, laddie, you're never going to beat him." But that's when Crenshaw, putting with an assortment of irons, began a comeback. He made a three-foot par putting with a wedge at the 11th and, with a one-iron, an 18-footer for a birdie on the 13th and a six-footer for birdie at 15. Darcy later showed why he is nicknamed Dozy, when he claimed he didn't even know Crenshaw had broken his putter until after the match. "I figured he was using the irons because he wanted to, to slow the ball down on the fast greens." Seriously, Eamonn. "Aye, seriously." Oh.
Maybe Darcy concentrates better in a fog. One down going into 17 and the whole of Europe on his shoulders, Darcy played perfectly for a par and then split the 18th fairway before Crenshaw hooked his drive into the water. Darcy found a greenside bunker with his second shot, but came out to five feet. When Crenshaw valiantly one-ironed a seven-footer for bogey, Darcy took forever before leaking his putt in the side door. He had his first Ryder Cup win ever, and it couldn't have been a bigger one.
Big because the results of this year's Ryder Cup mean much more than a three-day competition in which 12 elite players beat 12 other elite players. Substantial changes in the structure of world golf may be in the offing. PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, for one, may not like it, but the ripple effect of America's loss could mean that the U.S. Tour will no longer be considered the only legitimate testing ground of a player's ability. Jacklin sees sponsors lining up to support events in Europe. Nicklaus hopes the U.S. Tour will be rearranged into two groups that each offer a player the chance to win more often.
"There are a lot of players who sit on our money list from about 30 to 200 who will say, 'There goes Nicklaus again,' " he said Sunday. "But I'm going to keep on preaching. You've got to have winners, you've got to have heroes, and you've got to have superstars that people look at."