This powerful USA team, featuring a resurgent Tiger Woods, were supposed to regain the Ryder Cup. They were supposed to end the 25-year wait to win in Europe.
But despite a late charge on an electric Sunday, Europe held firm to deliver a stunning victory near Versailles.
Europe’s win was built on a dominant display over the first two days, a unity and excellence in team play that forged a 10-6 lead heading into Sunday’s singles.
They needed the buffer, too, as the might of American golf hit back hard. The USA won three of the first four matches to close to within a point. For much of a sizzling afternoon there was an undercurrent of nerves among the massed ranks of singing, chanting, cheering European fans at Le Golf National.
But these early skirmishes proved fruitless in the context of the overall battle.
When Woods fell to Spanish rookie Jon Rahm, Europe were three points clear again and closing on the 14.5 needed to win.
Europe’s long-time Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter took them to the brink with another chest-thumping victory against world No.1 Dustin Johnson.
When Phil Mickelson conceded his match to Italy’s Francesco Molinari on the 16th green, the Cup was back in European hands for the seventh time in nine events.
It gave the unbeaten Molinari, the British Open champion, a record fifth point for the week.
“They’ve been amazing,” European captain Thomas Bjorn told Sky Sports amid deafening scenes of celebration from roaring fans.
“The 12 of them have been unbelievable the way they bonded together, they were determined they set out to do a job for themselves. For me it was an easy job to guide them in that direction. They wanted it desperately. It’s all down to 12 players and them only.”
Molinari, who won four points with rookie partner Tommy Fleetwood, said: “It means more than majors, more than anything.
“It’s hard not to get emotional when you think about the other players, the vice captains, the wives. They had the strongest team ever, probably, but we were just so good. Its unreal.”
The USA team were touted as one of the strongest ever. Alongside Woods, the recent Tour Championship winner, the US boasted the world No.1 in Dustin Johnson, a double major winner this year in Brooks Koepka, nine major winners in all, six of the world’s top 10 and an average world ranking of just over 11.
But when Europe won eight straight matches, including an historic whitewash in Friday’s afternoon session, the USA superstars were reduced to wide-eyed tourists swept up in a maelstrom of noise and color in an alien land.
Europe had five major winners, four of the world’s top 10, including world No.2 and recent $10 million Fed Ex Cup winner Justin Rose, and average of world ranking of 19.
For Bjorn’s side, though, the sum was greater than the individual parts.
All 12, of which five were Ryder Cup rookies, contributed at least a point to the victory.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, picked as a wildcard for his experience despite a poor season, won his third point of the week with victory against Rickie Fowler to became the leading points scorer in Ryder Cup history, overtaking Nick Faldo with 25.5 points overall.
Bjorn added: “This is such a special event, and experience when you come with the right attitude can achieve great things.”
Furyk said he was “proud” of his team for fighting hard in Sunday’s singles, but there was to be no momentous comeback such as USA’s 10-6 reverse at Brookline in 1999 or Europe’s “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012.
“There was time this morning when it looked like we had a chance,” Furyk told Sky Sports. “My hats off to Europe. They played well, they turned it around. Hats off to Thomas, he was a great captain, his 12 team members played very well top to bottom.”