A miracle or meltdown at Medinah?

Sept. 29, 2012. Saturday afternoon.

Team USA has taken a commanding 10-4 lead in the 39th Ryder Cup. Team Europe appears doomed at Medinah.

The biennial competition between the United States and Europe has taken on a decidedly American flavor in suburban Chicago, with no hint of the dramatics to come over the ensuing day.

With only a pair of four-ball matches still in progress, the U.S. is on the verge of turning the competition into a complete rout and winning just its second Ryder Cup since a legendary comeback win in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1999.

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, down by 4 holes earlier in their match against Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, now trail by just 1 with two holes to play. And Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson lead Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy, 2 up, with just six holes remaining.

As the 40th Ryder Cup takes place this week at Gleneagles in Scotland, we take a look back at the final 24 hours at Medinah.

"It's probably the best match I've ever played, or had any part of." Ian Poulter, on his Saturday afternoon four-ball match with Rory McIlroy

Team Europe member Justin Rose, playing in just his second Ryder Cup and who earlier Saturday had lost a four-ball match with teammate Francesco Molinari to Americans Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson: I remember thinking Saturday afternoon, "Is it worth it?" Is it worth two years of playing 12 more times around the world to play the Ryder Cup? We're on the end of a trouncing. It's disappointing.

Molinari: Both Friday and pretty much the whole day Saturday we had been battered by the Americans. It seemed that nothing was going our way.

But Team Europe makes a late charge. Donald and Garcia hold on to win, 1 up, and Poulter and McIlroy, despite the efforts of Michael Jordan (who tries to intimidate Poulter during the match) overcome Dufner and Johnson by an identical score. Poulter's fifth consecutive birdie clinches the victory -- despite the Americans' birdieing the last two holes -- and cuts the Team USA lead to 10-6 heading into Sunday.

Poulter: I looked at [McIlroy] on the 17th tee. He was kind of shaking his head, in [a] disbelief kind of way. He said, "You're unbelievable."

I'm not sure how you could 1-up that [match], to be honest. To turn that match around, thinking they're still going to birdie three of the last five and lose. That's almost incomprehensible.

It's probably the best match I've ever played, or had any part of.

Rose: He was clutch. It's amazing that a lot of people don't even remember he was playing with Rory McIlroy.

Patrick Reed, a Team USA member in 2014, but a television spectator in 2012: Poulter makes the putt, bulging eyes, yeah, I was watching. I turned off the TV at that point. Just because, when I saw that, I knew at that point that it was over. He just had that look in his eyes that I've seen so many times that Tiger [Woods] has had, maybe not as bug-eyed, but he had that look that he was going to go out and win.

I thought the whole thing was going to be over at that point. The momentum completely switched on us.

Stricker: You could feel the momentum going in the other direction [after Poulter's putt]. We knew it wasn't over. We weren't taking anything for granted.

Dufner: I didn't feel like that was a game-changer. But obviously it was a point.

"When you're thinking it's [going to be] 12-4 and it's, 'Hey, guys, you are all capable of winning your matches tomorrow, so good luck,' you don't really believe it. But with 10-6, we believed it was possible." Justin Rose, Team Europe

Ted Bishop, PGA of America president: I ran into [NBC Sports president] Jon Miller that night. He said, "Thank god Poulter got that putt. Otherwise nobody would be watching on Sunday."

I'm like, "Are you crazy?"

Brandt Snedeker: They really hadn't done that much the first two days and we were playing great. So I felt like it was a bad way to end the day, but we're fine. We'll go out the next day and it will be over quick.

Bishop: In the team room, there was no hint of any kind whatsoever that they thought this thing was over. None.

When the players met in their respective team rooms that Saturday evening, the moods were conflicted. Team USA captain Davis Love III, who was late arriving to the room, was confident, so much so that, according to one witness, he told his players, "Tomorrow night at this time, we'll be spraying champagne on each other."

Team Europe, which had received a stern, come-to-Jesus lecture from captain Jose Maria Olazabal (despite trailing just 5-3 after Friday's play), was feeling at least slightly optimistic about its slim chances for a comeback.

Rose: On Saturday night the feelings were bleak. Definitely. But the way the guys finished, those last two matches turned everything. It gave us a glimmer of hope. If you have a glimmer of hope, you have belief.

When you're thinking it's [going to be] 12-4 and it's, "Hey, guys, you are all capable of winning your matches tomorrow, so good luck," you don't really believe it. But with 10-6, we believed it was possible.


Ryder Cup 2012 Remembered: Team USA

With the 2014 Ryder Cup imminent, Team USA members remember their experiences, the positive and the disappointing, from the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah.

Molinari: I think obviously there's a part of you that says there's still half a chance probably, but not even a single chance. ... It's nearly impossible.

Team Europe player Graeme McDowell: Bizarrely on Saturday night, when the singles draw came out and we all got together -- the mood was bizarrely quite elated. There was a feeling among the team that the singles [draw] had come out favorably. On Saturday night it was weird. There was an air of something special.

Bishop: I left the team room to go to bed either 9 or 9:30 that night, and Davis hadn't made it back from the media center to the team room. And the reason for that was that the captains had to exchange their picks for Sunday, and then they had to do a couple of media functions.

I thought it was kind of weird. It wasn't what I figured the atmosphere would have been on the night before we're trying to put this thing away. I felt sorry for Davis. He was kind of predisposed with some media things and I thought his time would have been better served with the team. ... Some of the guys had already left.

That was the night where Presidents Bush -- President 41 and 43 -- had dinner with the team in the locker room. They got up and said a few things to the team. I just thought it was kind of a discombobulated evening, if you know what I'm saying. I don't want to insinuate in any way, shape or form that we were overconfident, or any of that. You couldn't have a better Ryder Cup captain than Davis Love in virtually every way. He was doing what he was told to do. But we've got to make sure that's something that doesn't happen again, because I thought it was something that maybe it affected his preparation the night before.

Love: We planned for everything we could plan for, except we didn't plan on being four [points] ahead. We didn't put a whole lot of thought into, "What do you do if you're four ahead."

Mark Fulcher, caddie for Rose: When did I think we had a chance to win? Never! To be completely honest with you, Saturday night I thought, "We have no chance whatsoever."

The Sunday singles matches:
Bubba Watson vs. Luke Donald
Webb Simpson vs. Ian Poulter
Keegan Bradley vs. Rory McIlroy
Phil Mickelson vs. Justin Rose
Brandt Snedeker vs. Paul Lawrie
Dustin Johnson vs. Nicolas Colsaerts
Zach Johnson vs. Graeme McDowell
Jim Furyk vs. Sergio Garcia
Jason Dufner vs. Peter Hanson
Matt Kuchar vs. Lee Westwood
Steve Stricker vs. Martin Kaymer
Tiger Woods vs. Francesco Molinari
The Americans need just 4½ points to win back the Ryder Cup. Team Europe needs 8 points to retain the Cup.

Garcia: We knew everything had to go perfect. We knew it could be done because the Americans did it to us in 1999 ["The Battle at Brookline," when the Americans overcame an identical 10-6 final-day deficit to win the Ryder Cup 14½-13½].

The only thing Jose Maria and the vice captains told us to do was to play hard and try to at least put them in the position to feel it and then see how they react. If they react well, and they beat us, so be it.

Molinari: But I think a good moment -- I don't know if any of the other guys would point it out -- was when the draw came out. [We] were looking at the matches and it looked for us like the pairings were matching well.

Obviously you can win or lose every match, but it looked like at least every single one of us had a chance, apart from my match probably, which was the most imbalanced one.

"We planned for everything we could plan for, except we didn't plan on being four [points] ahead. We didn't put a whole lot of thought into, 'What do you do if you're four ahead.'" Davis Love III, 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain

Jack Nicklaus, who had played in 28 Ryder Cup matches in his career, was at Medinah that Sunday. He was a guest commentator in the Sky Sports broadcast booth along with renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon and 2010 European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie.

Nicklaus: That morning, Monty and Butch Harmon were the announcers. Butch says, "It's over. There's no match today." And Monty says, "I think the Europeans have zero chance."

I said, "Guys, don't say that too fast. You look at the way the pairings are. The Europeans got the pairings they wanted. They got the strong players out first. If those guys win, I think you've got a match on your hands. And I think it's going to come down to the end."

And it did.

Poulter: Things have to put themselves in place. Yes, we can win this, but absolutely the front order has to do their job, and the middle order has to do their job, so [the] back end can do their job.

At 10-6 you have to almost say, "You got a chance, but it's a 1 percent chance."

Singles Match No. 3 between McIlroy and Bradley is scheduled to begin at 11:25 a.m.

One problem: McIlroy is nowhere to be found.

McDowell: It was about 45 minutes before Rory's tee time and we were like, "Where is he? This is problematic."

Michael Belot, the then-Ryder Cup director for the PGA of America: I was standing by the first tee and all of the sudden I hear somebody say, "Rory's not here yet." We started talking about it -- none of us are experts in the rules of golf -- wondering what's the penalty? Turns out if you miss the tee time -- if you're five minutes late -- you lose the hole. Ten minutes late, you lose the match.

Then you hear rumblings, people are looking at their phones on the first tee. It spread like wildfire that Rory was running late. I'll never forget that.

Where was he?

McDowell: He'd only been in Chicago for six days and still hadn't realized it wasn't on Eastern time.

Belot: We had someone stationed at the hotel, to make sure everybody got in the car for both teams.

Maggie Budzar, former PGA of America official, who oversaw player transportation: I would highlight each player's name, caddie's name and player's family name as they left for the course.

Rory's caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, had left before him. It started getting closer to the tee times, and I had been at the hotel all morning. My boss called me and asked me where I was. She wanted me to go to the course and enjoy the final day. I said I couldn't leave yet because I was still waiting for Rory. His tee time was 11:25 and it was almost 10:30.

I called the practice range and asked if they had seen Rory. They said they hadn't seen him, that maybe he was in the locker room.

Pat Rollins, the Lombard, Illinois, police chief at the time: We started making phone calls. He wasn't at the putting green or the driving range. At that point, the thought in law enforcement is do a "check well-being" -- see if he was OK.

Some thoughts are going through my mind. Is he OK? Did something happen? Is he in the room?

McIlroy: I was in my hotel room, and then I had a couple of missed calls. And I was like, why are they ringing me? I've got, like, two hours before my tee time.

Budzar: I knew his player liaison, who had an office on the first floor. The players were staying on the 14th floor. I went to [his liaison]. Then we were told by hotel housekeeping that they had knocked on a [player's room door] and a male voice had said, "I'm still in here."

Rollins: I had a point person, Roy Newton, at the hotel. As Roy gets off the elevator, he sees a security guard in place and the guard hadn't seen Rory. So we knew he was most likely inside his room. They knocked on the door, Rory opened up it and Roy said, "C'mon, you got to go." And Rory said, "No, I've got an hour."

He had been watching Golf Channel, but Golf Channel had the tee times at Eastern time and we were on Central time.

Budzar: His tee time was in less than 40 minutes. And it's a Ryder Cup Sunday. And that means parking-lot traffic. Bumper to bumper.

My boss calls me back and says, "You're going to have to get in the [courtesy car] and drive." Well, there's no way I'm going to be able to do that and get him there in time. And I couldn't put a volunteer in that position.

As I'm talking to my boss, there's a police officer there who overhears the conversation and says, "I have my patrol car."

McIlroy: Obviously, I panicked, and I got ready as soon as I could. The thing that I was worried about was letting the team down. We were already in a bad position. ... But I was panicking, I really was.

Rollins: Rory climbs in the front passenger side. It's just us two. I turned on the lights and sirens when I got to the [freeway] ramp near Medinah. And I radioed ahead and let the command post know I was bringing a VIP and that I needed a clear route. They never asked who the VIP was.

As we were driving, there was one point where I ended up slamming on the brakes pretty hard. I looked at him, and he was a little frazzled. I asked him if he got carsick. Then I said, "Don't worry, I'll get you there in time."

He had two cell phones going at the same. He was reiterating that he thought he had had an hour. As we got closer to the course, he was asking for something to eat when he got there.

J.P. Fitzgerald, caddie for McIlroy: I told him to come into the clubhouse and I'd have food waiting for him and we didn't need to go to the range. Then I saw all the commotion outside the clubhouse and thought, "How'd all these people find out about this?"

Rollins: When we pulled in, it was such an event. As soon as I got on the property, television cameras to the car. When I got to the golf course, another gentleman got in [the] back seat from the European Tour.

As soon as I put the car in park, (Rory) bolted from the car.

Budzar: He went to the putting green, and his hair was soaking wet.

McDowell: I'd have hated to have seen what would have happened had he missed his tee time and he lost his match and we lose the Ryder Cup. Now that would have been some headlines.

Keegan Bradley: I had already told [Ryder Cup officials], "I don't care what your rules are, I'm not taking a forfeit. Whether it's now, an hour from now, two hours."

I don't care what they would have said, we still would have played our match. I wouldn't have wanted to finish [with a forfeit].

Bishop: I was with Mark Love [Davis' brother]. He said, "How many times do you think Rory as a kid just walked up to the first tee box, put a tee in the ground and just played? This isn't going to be that big of a deal."

Belot: He threw on his shoes, hit two or three putts, then walked over the bridge to the tee box. Everybody was chanting, "Cen-tral time zone." He laughed.

McIlroy: I was lucky I got there to the course, and I just kept telling myself, "Let's try and keep it together for the first six holes," like, keep it to all square or even just 1 down or something, but just try to keep it tight for the first six.

Donald gives Team Europe its first point of the day with a 2 and 1 win against Watson.

Lawrie closes out his match against Snedeker, 5 and 3, and the USA's lead is now just 10-8.

Snedeker: I played terrible. I was no help to the team whatsoever.

I'm looking at the leaderboard and kind of have that sick feeling in my stomach: "Where are we going to get these points from? What's going to happen?"

You kind of circle some key matches: Jim's match, Phil's match, Steve's match. Looking at these possibilities of what could happen.

McIlroy closes out Bradley, who hadn't lost in his previous three team matches with Mickelson, on the 17th hole to win 2 and 1. Team USA's lead is down to 10-9.

McIlroy: Ended up I was 2 up after six, and then I was like, "Well, this is actually OK." And it ended up that it was the best golf I played the whole week. I shot 65 or 66. I was 6 under par for the match.

"I had already told [Ryder Cup officials], 'I don't care what your rules are, I'm not taking a forfeit. Whether it's now, an hour from now, two hours.'" Keegan Bradley, on whether he'd actually get to play Rory McIlroy in Sunday singles

Bradley: In the end, [the hurried arrival] actually put him in a good place. I knew he was going to play well. It was very intense. Rory's a guy I really like. He's a guy I'd really enjoy beating in singles and in the end shake hands.

I did want to beat him.

Rollins: I left the course. I went to the Brookfield Zoo with my family. Guys were texting me: "Europe is coming back." And I'm [like], "What?"

Minutes after McIlroy's win, Poulter defeats Webb Simpson 2 up to cap an amazing 4-0 week and run his overall Ryder Cup record to 12-3.

The Ryder Cup is tied 10-10.

Poulter: Personally, waking up Sunday morning, as energized as I was -- Sunday at the Ryder Cup -- there were moments during that round of golf, the second hole to the 10th, that I was really struggling.

I was struggling with energy, struggling with concentration. Probably more mentally tired. It's difficult. It's only yourself.

Bishop: When the blue flags went up, and it was 10-10, that's when you realize anything is possible.

McDowell: You can hear a European run ... by the lack of sound.

Molinari: Everything went a lot quieter than the first two days. And we knew it meant that things were going our way, that the American crowd was starting to think, "Maybe we're not going to win today."

Mickelson is 1 up as he stands over his second shot -- a birdie chip from just off the par-3 17th green. Rose is on the green in 1, but has a monstrous putt for birdie.

Rose: I was 1 down with two to play and I just kept trying to force myself to win the match, to not even think about a half [point]. I knew the situation was bleak. I knew we needed a full point. Everybody needed a full point.

Mickelson: We had a four-point lead going to the last day. We should have put it away early. You can't look at any one match.

Mickelson's chip is tracking ... tracking -- he starts walking at green's edge, right arm raised in triumph -- and then watches as the ball skirts the left edge of the cup. Mickelson places his hands on his head in disbelief.

As the pro-American crowd chants U-S-A (and in some cases, "Noonan!" -- an homage to the famous scene in "Caddyshack"), Rose sends his long birdie attempt toward the hole. If he makes the putt, the match is all square.

The ball drops in.

Mickelson applauds and gives Rose a thumbs-up sign.

Mickelson: But certainly had I chipped in on 17 -- and it looked like I made it -- and he doesn't make [his putt], it's [a 2 and 1 win for me] and the whole thing flips.

Poulter: Justin's putt on 17 against Phil Mickelson in the singles -- how does that happen? How did you hole a 60-foot putt when you have to hole it?

You don't want to let anybody down. You don't want to turn to your team and say, "I'm sorry." Sorrys don't happen in the Ryder Cup. It's just a case you have to remember, there's no what-ifs.

As Mickelson and Rose begin play on the 18th, Dustin Johnson gives Team USA its first point of the day with a 3 and 2 victory over Nicolas Colsaerts.

The Americans lead 11-10. Three and a half more points, and the Cup is theirs.

But Mickelson sends his second shot off the green, while Rose drops his to about 12 feet. He sinks the putt for another birdie to somehow win the match 1 up. It would be Mickelson's 18th loss in nine Ryder Cup appearances, a U.S. record for defeats.

The BBC commentator summarizes Rose's win perfectly: "And if you're playing chess, our bishop has just taken their king."

It is now 11-11.

Fitzgerald: I remember after Rory won his match, I had put the clubs away and gone in for a quick bite to eat before heading back out to watch. And Justin Rose came in and threw his hat down and said, "I don't know how I just won that!"

Then we ran out on the course to see the finish, but the look on Justin's face and the sound of his voice when he came in the room, I'll never forget.

Belot: I was in the office trailer, Justin Rose sinking that putt on 17 -- that's when I thought, "They may really win this thing."

A select few of us got to play the course the next day. I drove up to 17 -- the pin's in the same spot. I tried to make the putt that Justin made -- came within 3 or 4 feet. You just shake your head. You can't believe he made that putt with that on the line.

"You can hear a European run ... by the lack of sound." Graeme McDowell, Team Europe

Zach Johnson beats McDowell 2 and 1. Team USA leads 12-11.

But Lee Westwood defeats Matt Kuchar (after Kuchar chooses not to concede a short putt) 3 and 2.

The Ryder Cup is tied again.

Tiger Woods, after studying the scoreboard on the back nine during his singles match against Molinari: I was hoping it would be over before it got to me. That was the plan. But they put up a lot of blue. They got it rolling on us early.

Now some of these matches were 1 up with a few to go and anything could happen. And it did. Guys flipped their matches. Phil's match with Rosie. Made a couple bombs on him.

I figured I had to take care of my own match. It might come down to me, so just focus on my match. Get this match in somehow. Make sure that I'm up. And that if it does come down to me, I will have won my match.

Garcia: When you start with such a big lead, you're thinking, "We only need 4 ½ points and I'm sure, even if I lose, one of my partners will pick up the slack."

But they started to see a lot of names go down and that starts meaning so much more. When it gets down to those last three or four matches, all of a sudden what looked like it was going to be easy got really tense.

On the 16th hole, Furyk thinks he has made his birdie putt to go 2 up with two holes to play against Garcia. But the ball somehow stays out.

And then, incredibly, Furyk bogeys the 17th (to Garcia's par) and bogeys the 18th (his par putt, which would have halved the match, misses right).

Garcia has won 1 up. Team Europe takes a 13-12 lead.

After the missed putt, Furyk, who appears in shock, drops his head, places his hands on his knees and stays in the position for a full 12 seconds before Garcia approaches with hand extended. In 1999 at Brookline, it was Furyk who upset Garcia in singles. This time he would go 1-2 as a captain's pick.

Three matches remain. Team Europe needs one more point to clinch at least a tie and retain the Cup; the USA needs 2½ points to win.

Furyk: To have that one kind of flip, I was probably the most disappointed.

Dufner: Maybe around the 13th, 14th hole, I could tell the matches weren't going very well. By the time I got to 16 there was a big board and I could see I had to get some points. We were slowly being caught.

The next-to-last match of the Ryder Cup features Stricker vs. Kaymer.

Kaymer had missed the cut at the PGA Championship and Open Championship and hadn't posted a top-10 since April. His play was so uneven during the 2012 season that rumors persisted he might give up his place on the European team. He was held out of foursomes play altogether and lost his Friday four-ball match with Rose -- the only one Kaymer played before Sunday.

Their match is all square as they stand on the 16th green, each player facing a 6- to 8-foot par putt. Kaymer makes his first, followed by Stricker.

Bishop: In that Kaymer-Stricker match, those guys were on the 16th hole and they both hit bad second shots into the green. They both made really good pars, got it up and down.

I remember when Kaymer made his putt, I was sitting in my cart from here to about [6 feet] from Olazabal. When Kaymer's ball went into the hole, I just happened to glance over at Olazabal and he was looking up at the sky and he was going like this [finger pointing to the sky].

You knew what that meant. You knew the symbolism of that. Seve. [Fellow Spaniard and Ryder Cup legend Seve Ballesteros, who died of cancer in May 2011. His silhouette was on the Team Europe golf bags and shirts.]

I will never forget that. At the end of the day, you ask me for the most indelible memory of Medinah and that would be it. And who knows, maybe that was a factor, too. You know what I'm saying? Maybe it was just fate.

Dufner wins his match against Hanson 2 up, giving the Americans just their third singles victory of the day.

It is now 13-13. Two matches remain to be completed -- Stricker vs. Kaymer and Woods vs. Molinari. Both are tied.

Stricker: I think about how nerve-wracking it was.

As the day was going on, how I felt it was going to come down to the last two matches -- come down to Tiger and me.

By 14, 15, 16 [holes], I knew at that point, that my match meant a lot. At the start of the day, I didn't think it would come down to us.


Ryder Cup 2012 remembered: Team Europe

As Team Europe sets to defend the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland, the players remember the ups and downs of the 2012 Ryder Cup chase.

Molinari: We played [No.] 15 in pars, and after the 16 tee shot, [Team Europe vice captain] Miguel [Angel] Jimenez came up to me and said, "We're going to need something out of your match, probably a half a point."

I wanted to tell him, "Yeah, I kind of figured it out now."

Stricker bogeys the 17th hole. Kaymer sinks a downhill 4 ½-foot putt for par. He moves to 1 up with one hole remaining.

On the par-4 18th, both players reach the green in two but face long putts. Stricker putts first, missing wide left. He puts his hand on his head; he knows he needed a birdie. Kaymer wins the match -- and retains the Cup for Team Europe -- if he two-putts.

His birdie putt slips 7 feet past. Stricker makes his par putt, meaning if Kaymer misses, the Ryder Cup will be tied 13½-13½, with Woods leading Molinari and in position to clinch the Cup for the USA.

Woods: Playing [No.] 16, Joey [LaCava, Woods' caddie] was watching it all and it looked like it might come down to me. Stay focused and get my match in. We were in the 18th fairway -- 1 up, perfect spot.

I didn't know Kaymer's putt was to win.

Snedeker: We had Tiger coming down the last with Molinari. I think everybody thought if it came down to that, we were going to like our chances.

Chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" echo across the 18th green as the pro-American crowd tries to impose its home-field advantage.

Kaymer, once the No. 1-ranked player in the world before his game split at the seams, takes two practice strokes, steadies himself over the ball and then puts the putt in the heart of the cup. Before the ball dives into the darkness, Kaymer raises his arms in triumph. He then jumps into the arms of Garcia.

As Kaymer's caddie, Craig Connelly, pulls the historic ball from the cup, Stricker walks slowly off the green. As one of Love's at-large picks, he finishes 0-4 for the competition -- including 0-3 with Woods as a partner.

Team Europe has done it. It has accomplished the near impossible: overcoming a four-point deficit entering the final day.

Kaymer: A lot of people think of only that putt. But without Justin and without Ian and those guys, I would have never had the chance to make that putt. So they should get a lot of credit for it.

But I'm more proud of the last three or four holes, the way I played them. That was only one putt that I made. Fair enough -- it was a big putt. But the last hour, that was quite crucial.

Fulcher: Even Sunday, when things started to look like they were turning, I thought, "Well this at least will be respectable." Then it went to, "Good, we can make it look like it was a close match." It wasn't until Martin's putt went in that I thought, "Holy s---! We just won?"

Woods: And then it just erupted up there. Not a good spot to be in.

Snedeker: It's funny, I still felt we were going to pull it out up until the last minute.

The Europeans have retained the Cup. But there is still the matter of the final score.

Will Olazabal instruct Molinari to concede the match to Woods -- who leads 1 up on the 18th fairway, even though Tiger hadn't posted a birdie all day -- making the score 14-14? Or will he ask Molinari to play on for the outright win?

Molinari: I wasn't really sure what to do. I looked at Olazabal and we just had a little exchange, because I didn't know if he wanted to give Tiger the match or keep on going.

I didn't have a clue what to do, to be honest with you. Almost no one has (been in that position). It was such a unique case with the comeback and everything that I didn't really know what to do. I looked to Olazabal, to kind of ask him what he wanted to do, really.

I think Olazabal told me, "You can still win it. Halving and winning it is not the same, so keep going and keep trying to win the hole and win the half point." I can see his logic there.

Woods: The opportunity was there for them to [concede the point]. And they didn't do it. I ended up conceding [Molinari's putt, which halved the match] on the green.

Some guys on the team weren't very happy. They were saying that stuff on the green.

Dufner: Yeah, I think that could have been handled a little bit better. They had retained the cup. Obviously Mr. Woods was a little deflated with what the situation was. Maybe in some cases I feel like that match should have been conceded for the [overall] match to be tied. Maybe that's their way of rubbing it in a little more possibly.

I wasn't happy about it. I don't think a lot of people realize in that tournament what was happening due to the fact that we had lost the matches. But I definitely noticed it and filed it in the memory bank, so to speak. Especially with a player like Tiger Woods, who means so much to the game and what he's done for the game of golf. He's made it profitable for a lot of those guys.

Snedeker: The minute we lost the Cup. I think everybody on our team thought, "Why is Tiger still playing?"

The Ryder Cup is over for all intents and purposes. A tie's a loss to us at that point.

Bishop: They'd won the Cup, and it was anticlimactic.

The aftermath ...

Bottles of Moet champagne have been placed near the clubhouse for the winners. The Europeans spray and guzzle the bubbly. They dance. They rejoice.

The Americans try to make sense of a 14½-13½ final score. They have now lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups.

Stricker: I felt deflated because I didn't win a point that week. I think that even deflated me even more.

It's a week I think about a lot.

Snedeker: I've got two kids. It will be tough to talk to them about it.

Furyk: Quite honestly, we just laid an egg on Sunday and the European Team got the momentum.

Dufner: I don't think the reality of it all really hits you until you go to those closing ceremonies and stuff. Obviously with the lead that we had, we were in a bit of a state of shock. Unfortunately in the game of golf, you've got to accept your realities pretty quickly.

Bradley: To be honest, when I look back in my head, I don't even remember Sunday. I blocked it out.

I remember playing for Davis Love and feeling the saddest for him. I feel for him the most.

Kuchar: I think everyone so enjoyed him as captain and have such a great respect for him, it was tough. We wanted to win, and we wanted to see him win.

Snedeker: I feel like Davis did everything the right way. I think, rightly or wrongly, all captains get all the credit or all the blame. I don't know what Davis would have done differently that week. He let us go play and do our thing, [and it] fell on us that we didn't do it.

I always think about, what if I'd won my match early in the round, what if I'd been able to play good golf that day, maybe the outcome of the Ryder Cup would have been different.

Love: The other team played very, very well and continued it into Sunday and we didn't. That was really the difference.

Rollins: That night, when we were at the hotel and they had supper at a gathering room, I was present with other Lombard [police] officers at the time. Rory came down from his room to the main foyer in the private secured-off area. He saw me and said, "You won the Ryder Cup."

I kind of looked at him and said, "No."

I had people all over the world reach out to me, positively, with some nice discussion. Some said, "Couldn't you take him to a different golf course? Why did you do that?"

But it was a shining moment for American law enforcement. It was one of the most proud moments in my career. We stand up and do the right thing. The tournament is to be won on the course, not on the road.

But I will say this: A lot of people from Belfast, Ireland, offered to buy me beer if I ever get out there.

Budzar: I started getting gifts from European volunteers. They sent me newspaper articles from Ireland. I got necklaces from volunteers from Scotland.

I'm forever called "Mrs. Benedict Arnold" for the U.S. losing. My family still brings it up. I tell them, "Guys, I was just doing my job." Can you imagine if I didn't get Rory there?

Westwood: I watched the highlights. Still don't know how it happened.

At Brookline we were on the wrong end of it. I didn't think we were going to lose that one. This one we didn't think we were going to win it.

Don Larson, Medinah general chairman for the Ryder Cup: At the awards presentation, Rory got an alarm clock hanging around [his] neck, so he'd remember what time it was. I think that they were shocked that they could come back from such a deficit.

Belot: I remember sitting at the closing ceremonies, next to [a PGA of America official]. It was such a surreal moment. And it's over. And you've lost. But I still felt that golf was the winner that week because the next day everybody was talking about the Ryder Cup.

Bishop: I sat with [Jean] Van de Velde Sunday night [at a Ryder Cup dinner]. I had forgotten that he was a rookie at Brookline in [1999], so he was on the receiving end of that same type of defeat.

He just said it will take these guys several months to get over this type of defeat. He said it was hard for them after Brookline.

He was very gracious. He knew how it felt.

Snedeker: Scott Hoch had a great quote, and it applies to the Ryder Cup. He said, "Golf is just a game until you lose a major."

And I think golf is just a game until you're part of one of those epic collapses at a Ryder Cup.

Right or wrong, I don't think it was a collapse, but it is. At the end of the day, we were up four points -- one of the largest leads in Ryder Cup history -- and we lost. You can spin it any way you want to, but we didn't get the job done. If that's not a collapse, I don't know what you would call a collapse.

I left a point in the first match of the tournament. I had a bad tee shot on 18 and coughed up a point against Rory and Graeme. I look back at certain holes and moments in that Ryder Cup thing and think what would have happened, what could have happened.

Bishop: [2014 Team USA captain] Tom [Watson] had all the numbers all charted out. He told me from an aggregate standpoint, the European team on Sunday was 24 under par and the Americans were 5 under par.

So I don't look it at it as a collapse. I look at it as a tremendous comeback. They hit some unbelievable shots and made putts at times that were historic in the magnitude of what they meant in the history of the Ryder Cup.

Poulter: It was the most exhilarating experience that any team could probably experience because we were written off. There are so many reasons that made it the Miracle at Medinah.

You grab hold of your teammates. You want to shed a tear because it means that much to you, to them.

That was a hangover well worth having

Noted British golf journalist John Hopkins: That was my 19th Ryder Cup. But that one at Medinah was the most remarkable of the 19. I come back from these and I sometimes think to myself, "Gosh, I can't believe how lucky I've been to see that. That was better than what I thought was the best before." And I really don't think anything can be better than that.

It's just one of those days where you say, "I can't write well enough to write this."

Bishop: I think the greatest lesson -- and Watson has referred to this a lot, when he's had discussions with players who might make his team -- it's almost like the saying, "Remember the Alamo." I think the motto going into Gleneagles is going to be "Remember Medinah."

-- Michael Collins contributed to this report.