Instant classic

Graeme McDowell celebrates his 3 and 1 win to secure victory for Team Europe on the 17th green in the singles matches during the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor. McDowell also won twice on the European Tour and claimed stateside wins at the U.S. Open and the Chevron World Challenge, where he took down Tiger Woods in the memorable final round.

Graeme McDowell celebrates his 3 and 1 win to secure victory for Team Europe on the 17th green in the singles matches during the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor. McDowell also won twice on the European Tour and claimed stateside wins at the U.S. Open and the Chevron World Challenge, where he took down Tiger Woods in the memorable final round.

NEWPORT, Wales – Graeme McDowell may have clinched the winning point to give

Europe the Ryder Cup, but this was truly a team victory in the greatest team event in golf.

McDowell will be feted for his 3 and 1 singles win over Hunter Mahan that gave Europe a 14 1/2 – 13 1/2 victory in the 38th Ryder Cup. It marks Europe’s sixth win in the past eight matches, and the ninth win in the last 13. However, Europe won this Ryder Cup the way it won the others in that stretch – collectively.

What might escape the attention of most golf fans is that Europe lost three of the four sessions at Celtic Manor. The Northern Irishman would not have been in the position to play hero if not for Europe’s greatest-ever Ryder Cup Sunday.

That’s when Europe routed the U.S. team 5 1/2 – 1/2 in the combination of two foursomes and four four-ball matches. That gave them breathing room heading into the crucial singles.

“I don’t think this match was won today,” Montgomerie said Monday. “It was won yesterday with 5 1/2 points out of six. That was the whole team gaining at least a half point in that session. That’s why we won the Ryder Cup.”

Ian Poulter was also mindful about the importance of the third session. “It was massive,” Poulter said. “To lose three sessions and win shows how important that third session was.”

The U.S. traditionally wins the singles in the Ryder Cup, and did so again. Needing only five points after forging ahead 9 1/2 – 6 1/2 after the Sunday rout, Europe struggled over the finish line. They won four matches and halved two others for the requisite five points.

Out as anchor man, McDowell was hoping the Cup would not rest on his match.

“I can safely say I have never felt that nervous on a golf course before,” McDowell said. “I hoped I wasn’t going to be needed.

“It was a different level to Pebble Beach (where he won the U.S. Open) completely. This is the greatest golf event on the planet.”

The importance of this victory to the European Tour cannot be overstated. The match means more to the Europeans than it does to the Americans. They also wanted it desperately for European captain Colin Montgomerie.

“I think we all knew in the team how much this meant to Monty,” Harrington said. “He deserved it, and we wanted to deliver it for him.”

Europe did, but this match proved pride and passion run deep in the U.S. camp. Mahan’s reaction to losing to McDowell summed that up. Mahan was in tears afterwards, barely able to speak at the press conference.

“The Ryder Cup brings stuff out of you that you didn’t know you had, from an emotional sense, from a golf sense, and that’s what’s personal about it,” Mahan said. “I don’t think people give us credit for how much we actually care about it.”

After four days of the worst weather ever seen in the 83-year history of the match, Europe emerged with Samuel Ryder’s trophy for only the 11th time against 25 U.S. wins and two halved matches.

Hyperbole runs rampant at the Ryder Cup. This one already is being hailed as the greatest. No doubt the same will be said two years from now in Medinah, Ill., when the U.S. will be gunning to regain the trophy.

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