Graeme McDowell paid tribute to his team-mates after Europe regained The Ryder Cup with a narrow victory over the United States.
With the Teams neck and neck at 13½ points each, the contest came down to the final singles match between the Northern Irishman and Hunter Mahan, with the former one up on the 16th tee.
A sublime birdie at that hole was enough to set up a 2&1 win and ensure Europe clinched the Samuel Ryder Trophy, but McDowell acknowledged the other 11 players had laid the groundwork for him to close it out.
“I have 11 team-mates beside me here who give me the opportunity to do what I did this afternoon,” he said. “Without them, I don’t do what I did.
“I’ve got the best player in Europe beside me. I have some of the greatest players in the world, and the emotions and the passion that everyone displays at this Ryder Cup, I mean, it’s just different.”
McDowell admitted to being the most nervous he has ever been on a golf course in his life when he realised the fate of The 2010 Ryder Cup was in his hands.
“I can safely say I’ve safely say I’ve never felt nerves like that,” said the 31 year old. “I was asked to compare how that felt to when I won the US Open and this was a different level completely. We said we wouldn’t look at leaderboards but those are pretty big screens and it’s tough not to notice. I saw one on the tenth green and realised it was tight.
“Coming down the stretch I’ve never felt nerves like it. I’d hoped it wouldn’t come down to my match and the guys before me would do the job but it wasn’t the case. The 16th was the greatest second shot and greatest putt of my career.
“The emotions surrounding this golf tournament are extremely different from anything else. It was very flat for 12, 13 holes and then all of a sudden it was obvious that our match was going to count.”
Captain Colin Montgomerie described the victory as the greatest moment of his career.
“There’s a different responsibility being captain than there is playing,” he said. “Playing is a whole different responsibility and a whole different feel. I have a reasonable playing record in this competition, but I never had a winning record as a Captain.
“I don’t think this match was won today. It was won yesterday evening. It was won yesterday evening with 5½ points out of six. That’s where The Ryder Cup was won.”
Lee Westwood, who won two-and-a-half points to take his total in Ryder Cups to 20, said it was agonising watching McDowell finish his match, knowing there was nothing more he could do.
“I hated every minute of it,” he said. “I don't know how my wife and parents do it. It’s so much easier playing because you're in control. It's always difficult when it's within grabbing distance.
“When you're a player, you understand what something like Graeme is going through today, and that’s what makes it awful because you know how nervous he’s going to be, yet you can’t do anything about it, you can’t say anything to him or do anything. So you are really helpless.”
Ian Poulter, who along with Miguel Anguel Jiménez and McDowell won his singles match, said: “I said this morning on the range that I would deliver a point. I’m pretty passionate about this format. I love The Ryder Cup. I always have.
“I’ve watched so many matches over the years – Seve, Ollie, Colin, Nick, all the guys. They just pour out passion upon passion in this event. I love it. I love it from the first tee. I love it from the songs, and I love it with all 11 teammates. It truly is the best tournament in the world, and will always be.”
United States Captain Corey Pavin was gracious in defeat, saying he was proud of his players and the battle they put up to nearly retain the trophy.
“The players should be so proud of themselves,” he said. “I have told them all week they are playing for each other and we are a Team.”
Hunter Mahan was in tears as he paid credit to Graeme McDowell’s resolve to hold on to his lead in the final singles match. “He didn’t miss a shot,” said Mahan. “He played great. He made a bunch of key putts and that birdie on the 16th was huge. I was beaten today.”
Phil Mickelson, who beat Peter Hanson today for his only point of the contest, added: “We are disappointed we didn’t see it through. I didn’t see us losing it at any point, even after yesterday’s session. So it’s tough. We wanted to win awfully bad. It hurts because you put a lot of heart and energy into it and we really believed we would win.”