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The finish to this Ryder Cup was so riveting, it is sure to overshadow most of what came before. The greatest European comeback in the event's history climaxed on Sunday evening, but the victory—or put another way, the U.S.'s collapse—was three long days in the making. Every hole at the Ryder Cup is a tournament within a tournament, every half point is monumental, but sometimes the importance is obvious only in hindsight. Here is SI's definitive guide to the 39th Ryder Cup.
IN A NUTSHELL: The U.S. was energized by its four rookies, who went a combined 4--1 and lit up Medinah with an infectious enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Europe's core veterans struggled, leading to a 5--3 American lead.
MOST INSPIRED PAIRING: Keegan Bradley--Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, the 42-year-old Hall of Famer, arrived with a record number of Ryder Cup losses (17) and was still trying to shake off the malaise that had subverted a promising season. He was rejuvenated by the twitchy energy and spectacular all-around play of Bradley, a 26-year-old Ryder rookie. "I don't think I've ever seen Phil this excited on a golf course," his mother, Mary, said at one point. In the morning foursomes Bradley and Mickelson took down Europe's best team, Luke Donald and Sergio García, who had been a combined 14-0-1 in the format. The Americans' cohesiveness spilled over into lunch. "They couldn't stop talking about each other," said Bradley's girlfriend, Jillian Stacey. "It was like, 'Oh, that shot you hit was so great.' 'No, that putt of yours was even better.' 'But I couldn't have done it without your amazing read.' They're infatuated with each other. Every now and then they would stare into each other's eyes like they were a long-lost love. At some point Amy [Mickelson] was like, 'It's a good thing we're here or they might start talking about getting married!'"
Bradley and Mickelson began their afternoon four-ball match by winning the first three holes against Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy and were never challenged. For Mickelson, Friday marked the first time in nine Cups that he had won two points on the same day.
WORST PAIRING: Peter Hanson--Paul Lawrie. In the opening four-ball match, they lost five of the first seven holes to the red-hot team of Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, ultimately succumbing 5 and 4.
FASHION DON'T: The Euros' puke-green shirts. They had two years to fuss over the uniforms and settled on this?
TRAGIC FIGURE: Martin Kaymer. The slumping former No. 1 held on to the last qualifying spot even though all of Europe was openly rooting for him not to make the team. After sitting out the morning, he made zero birdies in four-balls despite a generous course setup, dragging down Justin Rose in a 3-and-2 defeat to Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
BEST SHOT: Mickelson's walk-off birdie on the watery par-3 17th. He stuffed a seven-iron to two feet, ending the match. Bradley called it "the best shot I've seen in my life."
WORST SHOT: Brandt Snedeker's drive on 18 in foursomes. The FedEx Cup champ was sent off in the leadoff match with Jim Furyk and played well enough to help battle back from 3 down to McDowell and McIlroy. The match was all square arriving at 18, but Snedeker hit a wild slice into the trees, leading to a bogey that cost the U.S. the hole and a half point.