All of which put the tinsel on a remarkable Saturday afternoon rally for the Americans, who had come from three points behind after that morning's foursomes to within one, 8½ to 7½. It marked the first time in 12 years that the U.S. had won the Saturday afternoon session of four-ball, and it set up a blustery, emotional Sunday nobody on either side of the Big Duck Pond will soon forget.
Come to think of it, the emotions began Saturday night, when the Europeans announced that the Menu Man, Torrance, might not play. Not only was his heart broken over his autograph collection, but he had an injured toe as well. That meant Watson had to put one player's name in an envelope before the singles drawings. If Torrance couldn't play Sunday, neither could the man in the envelope. "Who you putting in the envelope?" Lanny Wadkins asked Watson that night.
"I haven't got a clue," said Watson.
"Put me in it," said Wadkins.
Wadkins insisted that because he hadn't earned enough points to make the team on his own and was there as one of Watson's two selections, he should step aside, even though nobody wanted to play the Ryder Cup more. "I had tears in my eyes," said Watson. On Sunday as he was sending his players to their matches, Watson said, "If it gets too tough out there for you, remember what Lanny did for you."
Nobody remembered that more than Love. Standing on 17 as Rocca looked at his 25-footer for birdie, Love sidled over to Watson and said, "It's about time for him to miss one and me to make one." Sure enough, Rocca ran his approach putt too far and began to unravel. He started fidgeting. He took too long.
Now the match was tied and so were Rocca's nerves. This is the former caddie-master of the Golf Club L'Albenza near Bergamo; an eight-year polystyrene worker; a man whose only win in 11 years on the European tour came this season; the first Italian to play in the Ryder Cup. He wasn't ready for this. Love let him walk alone to the gruesome 18th tee and wait there for a full minute, wallowing in the bile of his mistake. Then Love arrived and hit the best drive of the week there, a drawn three-wood that was too perfect to copy. Rocca, the poor man, made a scared, quick swing that left him way right and with no chance for par.
Still, Love needed a six-footer to win the hole, and six feet at the Ryder Cup is just enough room to dig yourself a very nice grave. "I almost threw up on myself," said Love, a Ryder Cup rookie himself. "I couldn't breathe. There was no saliva in my mouth. It's one thing for me to miss a putt to lose the Masters. But to miss a putt to let down your team, that's bad."
He stepped up to the putt, put it in the center of the hole, walked over to Wadkins and said, "That putt's for you."
Maybe no Ryder Cup will ever again come down to the final putt on the 18th hole, as it did in 1991 in Kiawah, S.C., but the Americans are still playing for their reputations in this event, and it is here they are judged like no place else. So, for these Americans, on a day they won the final round of singles 7½ to 4½ to secure a 15-13 victory, this year's Cup was as sweet as sugar candy. "This," said Watson, "is the best feeling I've ever had in golf."