Rory McIlroy cried and his continent understood why. “I love my team-mates so much and I should have done more for them,” the Northern Irishman said, the ducts unashamedly flowing forth. “I can't wait to get another shot at this.”
McIlroy had just won his singles, but the scoreboard covered in red told him the 43rd Ryder Cup was done well before the USA finished off a record 19-9 victory. It was all over bar the gloating . And, of course, the tears.
Ian Poulter was another who won and wept, while Steve Stricker’s emotions were of the opposite nature. “Speechless - everything about it, these guys all came together,“ the US captain said, before dropping the bombshell. “I mean, Brooks [Koepka] and Bryson [DeChambeau] wanted to play together; that's how much this team came together.”
The Slaughter by the Water, The Wake by the Lake, Dire Straits… However one couches this contest there can be no doubt that this was humiliating for Europe as the US at last won back-to-back home matches for the first time in 38 years.
When Collin Morikawa halved with Viktor Hovland and so ensured that Stricker’s men reached the requisite 14 1/2pts on the scoreboard to reclaim the trophy, there were still seven matches left out on the course. It was 3.52pm and the champagne bottles were already being emptied.
However it was McIlroy’s reaction that was set to be the definitive image of this Sunday; at least in those golfing lands of blue and gold. The four-time major winner lost three out of three in the first two days and when he last earned Europe a point, beating Xander Schauffele, 3&2, he was not about to take the merest sliver of consolation.
“I've never cried or got emotional over what I've done as an individual - I couldn't give a s---,” McIlroy said. “But this team, and what it feels like to be a part of it is phenomenal. It is by far the best experience in golf, and one to which I hope little boys and girls watching this today will aspire.”
In truth, it was not all on McIlroy’s shoulders. This was a team performance in the fact only a few could hold their heads up high. Of course, the sorrow could not be unleashed on Saturday night, but that is when the result became obvious with the scoreline at 11-5 and every avenue shut to salvation.
At that point nobody sane could have seriously considered a Medinah-plus comeback, of this dozen even beginning to replicate the resurrectionists of 2012, but if there was a scintilla of optimism it was extinguished as soon as Scottie Scheffler, the US debutant who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, tore into the world No 1 Jon Rahm in the third match and, courtesy of a quartet of birdies, was four-up after four.
It was akin to one of those moments on election night when a safe seat is flipped and the realisation hits home that this will not just be an ignominious defeat but a landslide. Rahm had gone and the few European fans in attendance prepared for a short afternoon that was going to feel very long indeed.
Rahm was eventually despatched 4&2, his first defeat of the week. Sergio Garcia went 20 minutes later, downed 3&2 by DeChambeau. This was also Garcia’s only reversal of this match. The Spanish Armada had no apologies to make, no droplets of guilt to shed. The fleet would have gone down even earlier without the heirs to Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
DeChambeau revelled in his new-found popularity and why not. He provided one of the highlights of the entire contest on the 354-yard first hole when audaciously driving the green and then converting the 40-footer for an eagle. It was comical watching DeChambeau’s caddie, Brian Zeigler, handing his employer the putter before he had left the tee-box and he held it aloft as he swaggered past the ecstatic throings.
The Mad Scientist or The Incredible Bulk, it did not really matter. At that moment he was their superhero, with his power seeming to sum up America’s daunting might. DeChambeau was at last being admired for who he is, without a single “Brooksie” taunt in earshot. That silly feud is surely now blessedly in the past.
“It's unbelievable, the atmosphere is electric, and I wouldn't want it any other way,” DeChambeau said. “It's quite a scene, one to remember for a lifetime. We are one team. We came together here this week. Even though we are competitors, we can all be friends and have unity.”
Call it unity in brilliance, togetherness in excellence. Dustin Johnson, the world No 2, was the obvious MVP of the match, emulating Francesco Molinari’s feat of 2018 by making it five out of five as he accounted for Paul Casey on the 18th. Yet this essentially was about the new generation. Stricker must be applauded for pinning his faith in youth and spiriting in a changing of the guard.
Patrick Cantlay, the world No 4, went unbeaten on his debut, adding to his 21/2 points by dismantling Lowry by 4&2. Lowry had enacted a celebratory jig on the 18th green the previous evening after he and Tyrrell Hatton had beaten Harris English and Tony Finau, but this was now a sombre march. It is frightening to think how good this US team can be once they all grow up.
“This is going to be the next era of the Ryder Cup for the US,” Cantlay said. “We have a lot of young guys and I think they are going to be on teams for a long time. We sent out rookies in four of the first five matches. I mean, that's unheard of. Every one of them has that killer instinct and we are going to bring that to future Cups. Listen to that noise.”
The fans have not covered themselves in glory here, with their incessant booing of the visitors and their mindless heckles. But after nine defeats in their previous 12 Ryder Cups, four in their last five, they should not be scolded for their rapture.
They remained until the last knockings, screaming for a merciless massacre. And it looked as if the US could become the first team in the modern age - after GB&I became Europe in 1979 - to reach the 20pt mark.
But Poulter beat Tony Finau 3&2, Lee Westwood came back from two down with four play to win on the 18th against Harris English - the veteran ending his losing run of six matches - and Tommy Fleetwood halving with Jordan Spieth.
The US could still claim a new mark when Matt Fitzpatrick was denied on the 18th by Daniel Berger, bettering the 18 1/2-9 1/2 shellacking administered by themselves in 1981 and Europe in 2004 and 2006. It was the very least they deserved.
“The US are a strong team, they got their plan right, they started well, they got some momentum going, ” Harrington acknowledged. “They just out-played us. The one thing I can walk away with is I am very comfortable with all the decisions all along. It's a small consolation but it is a consolation." Others might think differently.