A clearly emotional Ian Poulter stood on the 18th green at Medinah Country Club on Sunday and remembered with fondness the person most people believe is the best European golfer of all time: Seve Ballesteros.
Wearing shirts with Ballesteros' likeness and the years "1957-2011" stitched into their sleeves, the European players clearly channeled the energy of their fallen hero as they stormed back from a 10-6 deficit to keep the Cup with a 14½-13½ victory.
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"He'd be the proudest man in the world right now," Poulter said, his eyes welling up.
Ballesteros and current European captain Jose Maria Olazabal teamed to become the most successful Ryder Cup duo in history, compiling an 11-2-2 record. Ballesteros, who succumbed to brain cancer on May 7, 2011, was either a player or captain on five Ryder Cup teams.
"Seve will always be present with this team," Olazabal said.
Olazabal kept his good friend's memory front and center all tournament, starting by invoking memories of him Thursday at the opening ceremony. He was asked that day what Ballesteros would have told this team.
Olazabal's response: "Just play hard, play with passion and win the damn points."
Poulter clearly listened as he went 4-0-0 and made perhaps the biggest putt of the competition when he beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson with a birdie on 18 on Saturday. The fiery Englishman said his team used that momentum and brought it right into the locker room.
"The guys last night, just to be in that team room (was something else)," he said. "It was just players, captains and vice captains. There was something in there. There was just something. The atmosphere was like we had a 2-point lead.
"Today, the guys came out from the front, we put blue on the board, there were a couple games we turned around.
"What a historic day. It's just simply unbelievable."
Poulter, who is now 12-3-0 in his Ryder Cup career, was part of a morning charge Sunday that saw Europe take five of the first six matches. Poulter and the USA's Webb Simpson were all square after 16 holes, but a bogey by Simpson on 17 and Poulter's birdie on 18 gave Europe a huge point.
"I don't know what to say," Poulter said. "It's a special moment."
U.S. captain Davis Love III took heat in some quarters for sitting the red-hot Keegan Bradley in the afternoon session on Saturday, especially since the 26-year-old rookie was 3-0 and needed just 12 holes to win his morning session with Phil Mickelson.
Whether or not that cost the U.S. the Ryder Cup is debatable, but Mickelson came to his captain's defense in the interview room afterward.
"We said on the first tee (in the morning), we're going to put everything we have into this one match because we're not playing the afternoon. When we got to 10 (with a 6-up lead), I went to Davis and said, 'Listen. You are seeing our best. You can not put us in the afternoon because we are emotionally and mentally not prepared for it. And I know you're going to get pressure because we're playing so good. But we have other guys who are trying to get out there. … You need to stay to our plan.'
"You can not put (the blame) on him. If anything, it was me because I went to him on 10 and said that to him."
For his part, Love wasn't afraid to take the heat.
"I know that I'll get second-guessed," he said. "I knew going in that the players would win, the captain would get second-guessed. I hope they put it all on me because these guys put a lot into this and they played very, very well."
When's my tee time?
It was a party all week for the fans on the first tee box at Medinah. And they really hammed it up when they learned that Rory McIlroy arrived just 10 minutes before his tee time.
In the key of "Glory, Glory Alleluia" they broke out into:
"Rory, Rory where are you? Rory, Rory where are you? Rory, Rory where arrrrrre you? Your tee time is right now!"
After Europe claimed the Cup, McIlroy stood on the 18th green and with buddy Graeme McDowell and was able to poke fun at himself.
"Probably the best thing is I didn't have much time to think about it," he said. "Couple of putts (on the practice green) and away I went."