I should be tired, but I'm not. We lost the Ryder Cup about six hours ago, and now I'm at the team hotel, a Westin in suburban Chicago, trying to make sense of what just happened. Through two days we had Europe on the ropes—a four-point lead!—and yet we lost. Mayhem at Medinah—it was something like that. Tiger just texted me on his way to the airport. There were wrong turns, construction traffic, I'm not sure what all exactly, but it wasn't a smooth trip. He wrote, "A perfect ending to a perfect day."
I'm sitting here on a porch off our team room. For a week it was brimming with life but now it's empty. I'm wearing the red, white and blue pajamas that Tabitha Furyk, Jim's wife, gave to everybody on the team. Payne Stewart was wearing the same pajamas after our improbable (to say the least) win in 1999 at Brookline, when we did to the Europeans what they just did to us.
Ryder Cup Sunday has already turned into Bears-Cowboys Monday. One team will win and one team will lose that Monday Night Football game. And then they'll go get ready to play somebody else. The next time Europe and America play in a professional golf match will be at the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland. The next home game is two years after that.
Brandt Snedeker, a rookie on our team, wasn't crying when he won $11.4 million at the Tour Championship in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. But he was crying on Sunday night, and the only thing at stake was the right to bring a short, odd-looking trophy named for a British seed merchant to a display case at the PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The cast and crew in Scotland will be a different one. Not entirely, but in places. In Ryder Cup golf, it's now or never. The whole thing is absurdly, ridiculously intense and personal and communal. I think that's why we all love it so.
I spent 20 months getting ready for three days of golf. My shot as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has come and gone. I feel a sense of satisfaction. I gave it my all. (My team gave it more.) I feel a sense of emptiness. (Losing stinks.) I feel a sense of pride. My team handled its 48 hours of prosperity without ever being cocky and handled its Sunday defeat with true graciousness. From start to finish, in good times and bad, José María Olazábal's European team showed nothing but class. Golf is better now than it was last week.
If you need to blame somebody for this loss, blame me. I'm the one who signed off on the Sunday lineup, for the 12 singles matches. Europe won eight of those matches and tied a ninth. The final score was 14½--13½, Europe.
The last two holes were not kind to us and hard to watch. Euro putts were dropping, and ours were not. It wasn't for lack of trying. Too much trying, if anything. José María was suffering just like I was. He was wind-whipped, and his face was lined and his eyes were red. I'm glad I couldn't see myself.
I said to Scott Verplank, one of my assistants, "Which match do I watch?" You want to do everything, and you really can't do much of anything. You're a baseball manager, and every one of your pitchers is on the mound in the ninth inning of a Game 7. Jim Furyk walked by me after losing the 17th hole. The Ryder Cup on the line. I wanted to say something, but what could I say? He walked by me with that fierce game face of his on, and frustratingly I found myself saying nothing. I turned to Jeff Sluman, another of my assistants, and said, "Well, that was brilliant." But the fact is, in golf it's better to err on the side of saying too little than too much. And I'm sure there were times I said too much.
On Sunday, on 18, Steve Stricker had a long, fast downhill putt. All our guys were saying that Steve needed to know how fast it was. I called over his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, and told him to tell Steve something about the speed. Jimmy said, "He's not having me read any putts."
And then Steve asked Jimmy about the putt, likely for the first time that day, and Jimmy relayed what I had told him about the speed. Steve got the speed correct. As it happened, he read too much break into it. Steve Stricker is one the best putters in golf history. It's not science. And he did drop the eight-footer for par, forcing Martin Kaymer to make the six-footer that clinched the Cup.