Luckily for the United States Ryder Cup team, the next meeting with Europe is two years away. It will probably take that long for the players to shake off the shocking defeat at Medinah. Looking ahead to Gleneagles in 2014, the young American golfers have learned a valuable lesson.
For two days, Team USA received inspired play from the likes of Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, the youngest players suiting up for the Red, White and Blue. However, on Sunday the magic disappeared as Europe turned a 10-6 deficit into a one-point victory.
As the next wave of American stars struggled to handle the pressure of closing out a determined group of Europeans, the focus turned to the veterans, who had a similar lack of success.
Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk both let late leads slip away, turning potential clinching points into even more momentum for Jose Maria Olazabal's team. Steve Stricker missed more big putts, which could have kept the United States alive.
All told, by the time anchor Tiger Woods hit his approach shot into the 18th green, the Europeans were already celebrating their defense of the Cup. It was an unthinkable scenario heading into the day, but quickly turned to reality for the stunned Americans.
Since it's the last key event on the golf schedule for this season, the loss will stay with all 12 members of the United States team as well as captain Davis Love III for the entire winter. The Cup was within their grasp and they let it slip away.
Once the pain transitions to reflection, there's a lot the Americans—especially the younger ones who will likely be part of the team seeking redemption at Gleneagles—can learn from the heartbreaking loss.
Most notably, it's not over until the final point is earned, no matter how things have gone for the first two days. It takes 14.5 points to win the coveted trophy and Europe is going to fight every step of the way no matter the odds.
Even when it looked like a United States victory was a mere formality, Ian Poulter wouldn't allow his teammates to lose an ounce of optimism with a barrage of birdies late on Saturday that surely helped fuel the comeback.
One reason the event has become so special is the narrow gap between the two sides. It's almost always a close battle that comes down to the final groups on Sunday one way or another, and 2012 was no exception.
The same is likely to be true in 2014. It will be up to golfers like Bradley, Simpson and Dustin Johnson to make sure the Americans don't hand the Cup over to Europe with poor play. They all witnessed what happens when you don't finish the job right away.
There should be no shortage of hope on the American side moving forward. The United States has plenty of young golfers capable of getting the Cup back in American hands.
It's just a matter of turning what happened on Sunday into a positive, and using it as motivation in 2014.
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