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On Saturday morning the happy Woosnam sat out the alternate-shot matches while the happy Faldo and Gilford got blown away by Azinger and O'Meara and the Europeans dropped three of four matches. But they found themselves in the afternoon four-ball, winning 3½ points to even the score at 8-8.
That left Sunday's 12 singles matches to settle the matter. The draw had originally pitted Ballesteros against Ryder Cup rookie Steve Pate, but Pate suffered a bruised hip early in the week when three limousines in the U.S. motorcade piled up on the way to a banquet in Charleston. Pate played on Saturday afternoon, getting treatment for his injured side during the round, but he couldn't answer the call on Sunday. By agreement the Europeans paired Pate with the player (Gilford) whose name Gallacher had chosen and put in a scaled envelope, called the match a draw and awarded a half point to each side. The shuffle meant that Gilford's original opponent, Wayne Levi, would play Ballesteros, who prevailed 3 and 2.
Faldo and Feherty won the first two points for the Europeans. Then came the Calcavecchia fiasco, which sent a chill through the American side. Minutes later, however, Pavin beat Richardson 2 and 1, and Azinger's 2-up win over Olazábal quickly followed. The U.S. pulled even at 12-12 with Beck's 3 and 1 defeat of Woosnam. Then the Americans went ahead 14-13 on easy wins by Couples and Wadkins, and only two golfers were left on the course, Irwin and Langer. "There's nobody I'd rather have back there than Hale," Wadkins said.
Irwin seemed up to the challenge. One up on Langer at No. 16, the 46-year-old Irwin got up and down with a superb chip shot that stopped two feet from the cup, forcing Langer to roll in a tough six-footer to halve the hole. On the 17th Langer drove into the crowd by the green and got a nice bounce onto grass. Irwin answered with a stoic three-wood to the back edge of the green, but he three-putted for a bogey, leaving Langer, who had putted from off the green to within four feet of the cup, with that short putt to win the hole and even the match. Employing the bizarre putting style he uses to cope with the yips on short putts—he grips both the putter and his left forearm with his right hand—Langer made par, raising the specter of another Ryder Cup deadlock.
The 18th was brilliant drama, with the players and captains, their wives, the officials, the news photographers and most of the 25,000 spectators lining the dunes from tee to green. Langer hit the better drive, but both players' balls stayed on the short grass. Their second shots drifted right of the green, with Langer's gaining a small advantage in length. Then came the shocker: Irwin spilled his 70-foot pitch shot only halfway to the hole. "My disappointment after my pitch shot was so great that nobody on this team will ever know what it was like," he said afterward.
Irwin missed his long putt for par, so the match boiled down to Langer and six feet of Bermuda grass, with the hole and the Cup at stake. When the ball slid over the right edge of the cup, Langer straightened and grimaced as if a knife had been thrust into his back. The crowd roared and groaned simultaneously. Within seconds Langer's face took on a wooden look, as first Irwin and then his European teammates hugged him, and screaming spectators poured onto the green. "I feel extremely sorry for Langer, because he played very well coming in," said Irwin. "I know what he feels like, because I went through it."
So, yes, the U.S. has regained the Cup. This time, though, even the winners seemed to need consoling. Sam Ryder's homely little trophy is turning into a blood prize.