MEDINAH, ILL. (AP) - The Europeans had just begun to celebrate their improbable and delightfully sweet Ryder Cup win when Rory McIlroy and U.S. captain Davis Love III ran into each other amid the boisterous scene just off the 18th green.
Getting there on time wasn’t a problem for the Americans. They were there early, enjoying their final day as a team together, maybe even getting in a few last pingpong matches.
They just didn’t show up to play.
Maybe it was complacency. The U.S. almost always wins the singles matches, and with a 10-6 lead going into the final day it was time to start preparing victory speeches and choose the kind of champagne they wanted to spray on each other.
Losing the Ryder Cup? Unthinkable.
Well, almost. Love himself was up late the night before thinking about 1999, when he was a member of the U.S. team that staged a memorable comeback at Brookline to win a Ryder Cup everyone had already given to the Europeans.
He thought about it again when he woke up at 6:15 a.m. on the one Ryder Cup morning everyone was supposed to sleep in a bit.
“I know what we felt like going into it, and the stunning defeat that they had that day,” Love said. “We knew that they remembered that, as well. Exact same score.”
The urgency seemed to be lost on his players. After having their way with the Europeans the first two days, there was no indication they thought the singles matches would be any different.
Especially not at home, where comebacks like the one at Brookline just don’t happen for the visiting team.
Except these weren’t just any ordinary visitors. They proved it the late afternoon before, when Ian Poulter made them believe anything was possible when he birdied the last five holes to pull out a point in near darkness that the Americans were already putting up on their board.
Yes, they were down. But they were pumped.
“The whole atmosphere of the team changed last night,” Luke Donald said.
To change the atmosphere on the course, though, Europe had to get something going early. Both sides knew it, and it was little secret that European captain Jose Maria Olazabal would frontload the lineup to put his stars out first in the hope they could turn things around.