LOUISVILLE, Ky. — U.S. captain Paul Azinger sprinted up the stairs to the clubhouse balcony to join an American celebration he thought was a long time coming in the Ryder Cup.
The Americans didn't need a miracle putt or an amazing comeback like their most recent victory in 1999.
They didn't even need Tiger Woods.
Strong as a team and equally mighty on their own, the Americans rode the emotion of a flag-waving crowd and their Kentucky heroes Sunday to take back the Ryder Cup with a 16½-11½ victory over Europe.
"I never tried to think about what the outcome might be, and I started to dream about it a little bit today, thinking this could actually happen," Azinger said. "It just feels great to have it back on our soil."
Kenny Perry, the 48-year-old native son who dreamed of playing a Ryder Cup before a Bluegrass crowd, delivered a 3-and-2 victory that was part of an early push that swung momentum toward the U.S. team.
"I figured this was going to define my career," Perry said. "But you know what? It made my career."
J.B. Holmes, legendary in the area for making his high school team in Campbellsville as a third-grader, showed off his power with two final birdies that helped set up the Americans for victory.
The clinching point, appropriately, came from Jim Furyk.
He felt hollow six years ago at the Belfry in England as Paul McGinley made a par putt that clinched victory for Europe, the first of three straight victories that extended its domination of an event Americans once owned.
For all the birdies and spectacular shots during three days at Valhalla, the Ryder Cup ended with a handshake.
Miguel Angel Jimenez conceded a short par putt, giving Furyk a 2-and-1 victory and the Americans the 14½ points they needed to show they can win on golf's biggest stage — and without Woods, out for the year after knee surgery but staying involved by text messaging Azinger.
This truly was a team effort.
"They just took an everything-to-gain attitude into this competition," Azinger said.
Anthony Kim, the youngest on the U.S. team at 23, set the tone by handing Sergio Garcia his worst Ryder Cup loss — 5 and 4.
"I'm coming out of my skin right now I'm so excited," said Kim, who was 2-1-1 overall. "We're feeling pretty proud of ourselves."
Boo Weekley, meanwhile, galloped off the first tee using his driver as a toy horse, drawing laughter for his antics and cheers for his birdies.
Hunter Mahan, who criticized the Ryder Cup this year as a money-making machine, was the only player to go all five matches without losing. Mahan's singles match was the only one to reach the 18th green, all because of a 60-foot birdie putt he slammed into the back of the cup on 17.
He wound up with a halve against Paul Casey and a new appreciation for this event.
"It's an incredible, incredible experience," said Mahan, who went 2-0-3 and tied a U.S. record for most points as a captain's pick. "I wish every golfer could experience this, because it's amazing."
Ben Curtis and Chad Campbell won the final two matches against Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington for a lopsided final score.
The Americans had their largest margin of victory since 1981.
Despite his misfit collection of stars — from the backwoods Weekley of the Panhandle town of Milton to the street-smart Kim — perhaps no one made a greater impact on the U.S. victory than Azinger.
He had the idea to overhaul the qualifying system, which he thought kept the Americans from fielding their best team. And he doubled his picks to four.
"I poured my heart and soul into this for two years," Azinger said, his voice cracking. "The players poured their heart and soul into this for one week. They deserved it. I couldn't be happier."
European captain Nick Faldo won't get off that easy.
The British media blistered him for benching Garcia and Westwood on Saturday, the first time either had ever missed a Ryder Cup match. Even more peculiar was putting three of his strongest players at the bottom of the lineup — Ian Poulter, Westwood and Harrington.
The Cup was decided as their matches went on. Their points never had a chance to matter.
"It always hurts," Faldo said.
PGA: Will MacKenzie birdied the par-5 18th three straight times to win the Viking Classic in a playoff in Madison, Miss. He beat Marc Turnesa on the second playoff hole after Brian Gay dropped out on the first extra hole. MacKenzie, who earned his second tour win, birdied three of the last four of regulation for 4-under 68 to match Turnesa (70) and Gay (68) at 19-under 269.
U.S. Ryder Cup victories
The Americans have won seven of 15 times since the Britain/Ireland team expanded to include all of Europe in 1979:
Year Score Differential
1981 U.S. 181/2, Europe 91/29 points
1979 U.S. 17, Europe 11 6 points
2008 U.S. 161/2, Europe 111/25 points
1993 U.S. 15, Europe 13 2 points
1983 U.S. 141/2, Europe 131/21 point
1991 U.S. 141/2, Europe 131/21 point
1999 U.S. 141/2, Europe 131/21 point
Ryder Cup singles matches
Entering the final day, the United States held a 9-7 lead over Europe. To reclaim the title, the Americans needed 51/2 points out of the 12 singles matches. They did more than that, earning 71/2 points to Europe's 41/2 to win for the first time since 1999.
|Anthony Kim (USA) defeats Sergio Garcia (Europe) 5 and 4.|
|Hunter Mahan (USA) and Paul Casey (Europe) halved.|
|Robert Karlsson (Europe) defeats Justin Leonard (USA) 5 and 3.|
|Justin Rose (Europe) defeats Phil Mickelson (USA) 3 and 2.|
|Kenny Perry (USA) defeats Henrik Stenson (Europe) 3 and 2.|
|Boo Weekley (USA) defeats Oliver Wilson (Europe) 4 and 2.|
|J.B. Holmes (USA) defeats Soren Hansen (Europe) 2 and 1.|
|Jim Furyk (USA) defeats Miguel Angel Jimenez (Europe) 2 and 1.|
|Graeme McDowell (Europe) defeats Stewart Cink (USA) 2 and 1.|
|Ian Poulter (Europe) defeats Steve Stricker (USA) 3 and 2.|
|Ben Curtis (USA) defeats Lee Westwood (Europe) 2 and 1.|
|Chad Campbell (USA) defeats Padraig Harrington (Europe) 2 and 1.|