BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The corks popped, the champagne was sprayed, the victory chants spilled over the 18th green, Colin Montgomerie smiled and posed for photos with his fans, Thomas Levet hoisted Bernhard Langer on his back and Sergio Garcia heaved his champagne-soaked cap into an adoring crowd.
The celebration had begun, although the festivities probably could have kicked off a little earlier.
They completed the formalities of finishing the Ryder Cup on Sunday afternoon at Oakland Hills Country Club, where Europe handed the United States its most lopsided defeat in history, but there was no denying the 35th edition of the Ryder Cup was all but over Friday night.
"That's been our problem," Davis Love III said. "The team that gets way behind hardly ever wins."
It happened again. It went into the books as an 18 1/2 --9 1/2 rout for Europe, which not only matched the 1981 U.S. victory for the largest margin for a winner since the format of the U.S. against Europe was adopted, but also continued what is now becoming a tradition of European dominance in the biennial match-play event.
For the U.S., it was uphill all the way and simply too far to come back, after trailing by five points at the end of the first day of the four-ball and alternate-shot matches of team play. Down six points with only the singles left Sunday, the U.S. wound up winning only four of the 12 matches and lost for the third time in the last four Ryder Cup matches and for the seventh time in the last 10.
While Europe proved again that its pool of talent is both deep and rich and the notion of wearing the underdog tag is misguided, the U.S. showed again that it's not getting enough out of its best players. The top four -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Love and Jim Furyk -- were a combined 5-12-1.
"When it comes down to it, they've just played better," Woods said.
It's all getting sort of monotonous for the U.S. side, but if anyone believes it has to change, Kenny Perry said you might need to re-think that notion.
"It may not, we may just keep losing," he said. "We need to figure something out. We need to figure out our team play a little better. They got off to a good start and it was meant to be for them."
Woods, who got the U.S. off to a flying start Sunday with a 3-and-2 victory over Paul Casey, was 2-3 in three days and is 7-11-2 in four Ryder Cup appearances.
Woods, Furyk, Chad Campbell and Chris DiMarco were the only players who won their matches Sunday; Love halved his match with Darren Clarke. Europe outscored the U.S., 7 1/2 -4 1/2 in the singles, a format in which the U.S. used to dominate, but no longer.
Woods and DiMarco were the only U.S. players with more than two points -- DiMarco's 2 1/2 points led the team -- but four European players had at least three, led by Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, who were each 4-0-1 and had 4 1/2 points.
Europe led, 11-7, when momentum changed at the moment Mickelson hit his second shot into the water at the 16th hole. Mickelson, who led Garcia 2-up after eight holes, was 2-down at the time and Garcia closed him out with five-foot putt for par.
When David Toms missed a five-footer to bogey the same hole and Montgomerie took a 1-up lead, Europe led in eight of the 10 matches still on the course. It was only a matter of time until the end arrived.
As it turned out, Westwood accomplished that, rolling in a four-foot putt at the 18th to defeat Perry, 1-up, giving Europe 13 1/2 points. Because Montgomerie already had clinched at least a half a point in his match with Toms, it was over.
Montgomerie gave Europe the outright victory when he made a five-foot par putt at the 18th that closed out a 1-up decision over Toms and pushed Europe's point total to an unbeatable 14 1/2 with five matches still on the course.
For the U.S., it was an unsatisfying ending to yet another disappointing Ryder Cup. Once again, the mission was not accomplished.
Looking back at what happened, the U.S. team created a great deal of room for discussion. The forum may deal with a variety of topics.
* The Mickelson-Woods pairing. No captain had ever put them together before, for reasons that became obvious Friday.
Leading off the first match and losing was a momentum-changing event right off the bat.
But more of a risk was the real possibility that the chemistry was wrong between them, which even Hal Sutton was forced to admit after his power combination lost its two matches Friday.
* Sutton's apparent indecision over his four-ball pairings for Saturday morning. He turned in a lineup sheet that showed he had written Toms' name, then scratched it out and replaced Toms with Furyk in a pairing with Campbell.
Later, he said he was just guessing as a result of falling behind by five points, 6 1/2 -- 1 1/2 , after Friday's disastrous opening matches.