A distraught Hunter Mahan was last night unable to hold back the tears after the United States' heartbreaking Ryder Cup defeat at Celtic Manor.
Mahan broke down while reflecting on his 3&1 loss to Graeme McDowell in the final match of this year's competition, which handed Europe a stunning 14-1/2-13-1/2 success.
It was the first time since Kiawah Island in 1991 that the Ryder Cup had been decided by the final game and Mahan appeared to choke under the pressure on the 17th hole.
Two hours after the dramatic denouement, the circumstances of his defeat were still too painful for the 28-year-old to discuss at length. I'm just proud to be a part of this team. It's a close team, and...” Mahan managed before breaking down.
He later added: “I've played with Graeme before.
“He played great, didn't miss a shot. He hit a bunch of key putts.
“That birdie on 16, after I got it to one down, was huge. He just beat me.”
Stewart Cink, who conceded a crucial half to Rory McIlroy in a match that went all the way, said: “If you go up and down the line of the Tour players in the Europe and US and asked them if they would like to be the last guy to decide the Ryder Cup, probably less than half would say they would like to be that guy and probably less than 10% of them would mean it. Hunter Mahan put himself in that position today.
“He was a man on our team, to put himself in that position.
“Hunter Mahan performed like a champ out there today, all right, and I think it's awesome.”
Steve Stricker, who inspired the American fightback by beating Lee Westwood 2&1 in the opening singles game, added: “We can all look back and we can think about a shot here or there that could have turned the match to make up that one point, and you hate to see Hunter go through what he's going through, because it really shouldn't come down to that.”
Phil Mickelson went further by insisting he himself shouldered much of the blame for his team's demise. The event saw the four-time major winner claim the unwanted record of the most matches lost by a United States player when he suffered his 17th defeat yesterday.
He finally produced with a dominant 4&2 singles success against Peter Hanson but that followed a hat-trick of losses between Friday and Sunday.
Mickelson claimed yesterdaay’s defeat was more painful than the thrashings he endured at the hands of Europe in 2004 and 2006.
He said: “When I didn't win any of my first three points, I felt more disappointment than I've ever felt, because this is an opportunity for us to win here in Europe.
“And so the fact that we came so close, and I let some of these opportunities to gain points for our team slide, it does hurt more than some of our past losses.”