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“This style of golf just suits him” said Mike Mayer, who was his coach at Indiana and, like Overton’s dad, walked every hole Jeff played. “The funny thing is we didn’t have match-play when he was at school. But if you looked at his record in the Palmer Cup, the Walker Cup and the U.S. Amateur, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.”

But at the next hole, a dogleg par-4, Watson sprayed his drive way left and Donald drove the green to set up a birdie and square the match. At the 16th, Watson dumped his approach shot into a bunker and Overton uncharacteristically blasted it out 15 feet past the flag.

“Something fooled him,” Ron Overton said, wincing as he tried to read his son’s body language.

Moments earlier, Ron, who coached high school football and girls basketball in Evansville for 19 years, talked about how Jeff learned to play at a blue-collar muni in Evansville named Fendrich Golf Course. The fairways were scruffy, the bunkers often contained as much dirt as sand, and the greens rarely rolled true.

“But he worked and worked and worked until he could get around the place a few under par,” Ron recalled. “Lots of times I’d go to pick him up and sit waiting in the car. He was always the last silhouette coming in at night.”

At the par-3 17th, Donald hit a scintillating 4-iron to 2 feet and Poulter rolled in the clinching birdie. The cheers for the Europeans cascaded all across the hillside.

Instead of being cowed, Overton held his head high, smiled and took it all in. The Ryder Cup was everything people promised it would be.

“I was looking up and there’s 35,000 people and you’re standing at the base of it and you hear roars coming from all over the place,” he said, smiling. “You’ve got to love it.”

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org