BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Let the blame game begin.
From the opening hole - which Colin Montgomerie birdied on Friday - to the final putt - an improbable slider that Padraig Harrington holed on a treacherous 18th green on Sunday - the 35th Ryder Cup Matches was a European whitewash.
The Americans have such talent, but it was evident from early in the week, the Euros just had more heart and desire. They care about winning the Cup more than anything else. That's the only way to explain the 18 ½- 9 ½ massacre at Oakland Hills Country Club's South course.
The Americans have now lost four of the last five cups, and seven of the last 10, and are desperately looking for answers.
How could it be that the Americans suffered their most lopsided loss in Ryder Cup history on home soil in front of the home folks?
"I can't tell you how many times I second-guessed every decision I made," U.S. captain Hal Sutton said at Sunday's press conference. "I normally don't do that, but I did this week. . We are bleeding, but we are not dead. We will get back up to fight again."
Some in the gallery questioned if the Americans showed up at all Ryder Cup week. While the Euros played practice rounds as a group, often playing mini-matches to prepare for the real thing, many Americans only played nine holes each day. You have to wonder how much those decisions to walk away from one of the world's toughest championship courses impacted so many of America's late-match collapses on holes 16, 17 and 18.
No one exemplified the U.S. miscues more than Phil Mickelson, who made all the wrong headlines Ryder Cup week. First, people questioned his move from Titleist equipment to Calloway, just two weeks before the matches. Then, he skipped a practice round on Wednesday, disheartening the fans.
When he did hit the course, he flopped, losing two matches on Friday paired with Tiger Woods as America's "Dream Team." His errant tee shot on No. 18 in the Friday afternoon alternate shot single-handedly lost an emotional point to Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
On Sunday, Mickelson was handed the torch to lead a large U.S. comeback as the second singles match out with the Americans down, 11 points to five. He lost to Sergio Garcia, 3-and-2, to finish the matches with a 1-3 record.
If the European Ryder Cup mojo can halt Mickelson magic in his career year, it seems nothing will work for the Stars & Stripes.
"The Europeans have taken great attitude last decade, 'We are the underdog. We have nothing to lose'" Mickelson said. "They try to take the pressure off that way.
"When we get here, we are under constant ridicule and scrutiny. We want so badly to win this event. When we arrive on the first tee, we don't play like we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. We feel just the opposite. We feel like we have nothing to gain and everything to lose."
Even if the Americans had played well, they probably didn't stand to stop the hot-handed Euros. Westwood and Sergio Garcia were brilliant, each winning 4 ½ of a possible 5 points, a total that almost matched the Americans overall score.
Montgomerie's leadership went a long way, as well. All the European shot-making, along with their friendly antics of signing autographs and smiling to the fans during the practice rounds, kept the Oakland Hills' pro-American crowds at bay.
"Everything went our way," European captain Bernhard Langer said. " . We were more fortunate. We were just a little better this week."
Once again, the big guns let the Americans down. Woods might have played some of his most consistent golf of the season but could only muster a 2-3 mark. Davis Love III won just once, and lost a key match with Woods, 4-and-3, during Saturday's alternate shot.
The Americans refused to question their heart or desire, only their putting.
"If you look at all the highlights of the Ryder Cup in general, you see they made a boatload of putts," Woods said. "We hit the ball just about the same (as them), but you have to make putts."
Jim Furyk, coming off a wrist injury, went 1-3. Ryder Cup rookies Fred Funk (0-3) and Kenny Perry (0-2) didn't lift their games like their Europeans rookie counterparts, who were 6-6-1 (compared with 4-9-1 for the Americans).
And Sutton's pairings - particularly the Woods-Mickelson duo and the failure to send out a hot Chris Riley with Woods in the Saturday alternate shot - will forever haunt the fiery, outspoken captain.
Many believe the early turning point of the match occurred during Saturday morning's best-ball matches. Furyk and Campbell held a 1-up lead heading into the par-3 17th, but European rookies Paul Casey and David Howell stole the next two holes to win, 1-up. The win halted the American's early run to cut into a 5 ½ - 1 ½ first-day deficit.
"(This week) was remarkable," said Montgomerie, who holed the winning put and remained unbeaten in Ryder Cup singles. "I don't think in our wildest dreams we expected that (to win by such a large margin)."
Langer wouldn't commit to calling this the best team in European history, but the scoreboard speaks for itself.
"It might as well be the best, I'm not sure," he said. "We have never had this kind of depth. We could have come with 18 to 20 guys and given the Americans a good show."
With the Europeans' dominance in recent years, the grumbles about the U.S. Ryder Cup selection system will turn to rumbles. Points are accumulated over two years by earning top 10s in events recognized by the PGA of America, but the poor play of Perry and Funk, who earned their way onto the team with career years in 2003, bring that policy into question. The European system only accounts for 12 months.
In fact, Stewart Cink, champion at the NEC Invitational, is the only American to have won a tournament since May.
"Off the top of my head, I don't know of anything to do (or change)," Sutton said of the system. "The PGA will analyze everything and see if there needs to be any changes made."
One change is certain when the Ryder Cup rolls around in two years. The Americans will no longer be the underdogs. The Europeans are the team to beat. That will give the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K-Club in Ireland an entirely different feel than the first 35 tournaments.
"I don't think we'll be the favorite next time," Mickelson said. "Hopefully, we'll play like they do (as underdogs)."
Colin Montgomerie/Padraig Harrington def. Phil Mickelson/Tiger Woods, 2&1
Chris Riley/Stewart Cink and Paul McGinley/Luke Donald, halved
Miguel Angel Jimenez/Darren Clarke def. Davis Love III/Chad Campbell, 5&4
Lee Westwood/Sergio Garcia def. David Toms/Jim Furyk, 5&3
DiMarco/Hass def. Jimenez/Levet, 3&2
Montgomerie/Harrington def. Love III/Fred Funk, 4&2
Clarke/Westwood def. Woods/Mickelson, 1-up
Garcia/Luke Donald def. Kenny Perry/Stewart Cink, 2&1
Jay Haas/Chris DiMarco and Garcia/Westwood, halved
Woods/Chris Riley def. Clarke/Ian Poulter, 4&3
Paul Casey/David Howell def. Furyk/Campbell, 1-up
Cink/Love III def. Montgomerie/Harrington, 3&2
Clarke/Westwood def. DiMarco/Haas, 5&4
Mickelson/Toms def. Jimenez/Levet, 4&3
Garcia/Donald def. Furyk/Funk, 1-up
Harrington/McGinley def. Woods/Love III, 4&3
Woods def. Casey, 3&2
Garcia def. Mickelson 3&2
Clarke and Love III, halved
Furyk def. Howell, 6&4
Westwood def. Perry, 1-up
Montgomerie def. Toms, 1-up
Campbell def. Donald, 5&3
DiMarco def. Jimenez, 1-up
Levet def. Funk, 1-up
Poulter def. Riley, 3&2
Harrington def. Hass, 1-up
McGinley def. Cink, 3&2
September 19, 2004