2006 - Cheers and tears

  • Last Updated: September 24 2012, 22:16 BST

Europe 18½ USA 9½ - Darren Clarke, who had lost wife Heather to cancer just six weeks earlier, won all three matches as Europe scored an emotional win.

  • Darren Clarke is overcome by emotion as Europe triumph
  • Delight for Clarke as he sinks a crucial putt 
  • Woosie with the trophy 
  • Clarke is congratulated by Tiger Woods 
  • The crowd goes wild as Clarke wins his singles 

All Ryder Cup wins are sweet. But Ian Woosnam's side achieved perhaps the sweetest and most emotional of all at the K Club near Dublin in 2006.

As they celebrated in front of a ecstatic Irish crowd, who had cheered them every step of the way no matter what the weather, Darren Clarke was for obvious reasons the number one toast of everybody.

The fifth European win in six matches and, for the first time ever, a third in a row - by an incredible 18½-9½ margin that matched their record of two years ago - came not just with tears of joy, but inevitably tears of sadness as well.

Clarke, who lost his wife Heather to cancer just six weeks before the match, was hugged by everybody who could get close to him after a remarkable display in which he won all his three games.

"This is as good as it gets," said Clarke, crying his eyes out. "The support I've had is something I will cherish forever.

"I've too many memories to list. It's done a lot for me. A lot of people how showed how much they care for me and cared for Heather.

"I was just trying to keep my emotions in check all the way round. The fans have been fantastic and the American players and their wives have been incredible too."

The only thing that could have made it any better in Ireland's first staging of a contest which now grips the sporting world was if Clarke had holed the winning putt.

For much of the final day it looked as if that dream scenario could happen.

But the Ulsterman's team-mates denied him - unintentionally, of course - the ultimate glory because they were simply too good.

As Clarke was heading to a superb three and two victory over Zach Johnson, Swedish rookie Henrik Stenson, playing in the following match, was the man actually to send the United States to yet another defeat.

Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey, David Howell and Luke Donald had already taken Europe to the 14 points they needed to retain the trophy by then.

Stenson had no idea as he polished off Vaughn Taylor four and three that his was the putt that meant Europe's amazing run of success went on.

Clarke's point took the score to 16-8 and then Dubliner Paul McGinley added a half, Jose Maria Olazabal beat world number two Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, ill overnight, beat Chris DiMarco to complete the rout.

And a rout from first to last. In the opening game last Friday, Tiger Woods put his opening drive in the water and in the final match DiMarco twice went in the same lake. America may have beaten the Rest of the World minus Europe last year, but they could not even come close to beating Europe.

Not even the presence of former president Bill Clinton could inspire Tom Lehman's men. They were crushed in the singles by a worst-ever 8½-3½ - and lost all five sessions for the first time.

Woosnam, gulping down champagne after embracing Clarke and then congratulating every other member of undoubtedly the strongest European side in history, said: "I'm very emotional. I just can't say enough about my team. They have played absolutely fantastic.

"The crowd have been fantastic too and I just want to thank them. They were unbelievable on the first tee.

"I don't think the atmosphere has been this good before. I knew before it was going to be loud, but I didn't think it was going to be as good as this."

Lehman looked dumbfounded while Clarke and then Woosnam - almost inevitably - downed a pint of Guinness in one on the balcony of the clubhouse.

"I just tip my hat completely to the European team - they were inspired," said Lehman. "The crowd gave them momentum and I just don't know if there's ever been a European team that's played better."

Leading 10-6 overnight and requiring four points to retain the trophy and 4½ for victory going into the final day, Woosnam surprised nobody by entrusting the task of making a good start to 43-year-old Montgomerie.

As he did in 2002 the Scot, never beaten in singles, responded. He was never behind from the time he hit his tee shot to five feet and birdied the third.

It might well have gone back to level on the 11th, but in an amazing stroke of fortune Montgomerie's pulled approach hit the rocks by the lake and rebounded onto dry land.

He halved the hole, made a four-footer for a two on the 14th and was poised to put the first point on the board until Toms holed an 18-footer to stay alive at the 17th.

Behind them Sergio Garcia was trying to become the first European ever to win five points out of five. But the Spaniard was denied that by an inspired performance from Stewart Cink, who birdied four of the first five, was five up after seven.

As Garcia tried to fight back Cink sank successive putts of 50 and 30 feet at the 12th and 13th. Even when his opponent chipped in at the 15th Cink replied with an 18-footer that clinched the win and made it 10-7.

That turned attention back to Montgomerie. Two years ago he had beaten Toms on the last with the putt that gave Europe victory. This time he knew he had 'only' to halve the 18th to take his side 11-7 up and with a magnificent bunker shot and five-foot putt he did it.

Woods did his bit for his captain with a three and two win over Robert Karlsson.

Casey provided the next point for Europe, though, and since it was world number three Jim Furyk it was yet another great accomplishment for the Surrey golfer.

Howell was in match nine, but he thumped Brett Wetterich five and four, then came Donald with a two and one triumph over Chad Campbell. Donald and Olazabal were called upon only three times by Woosnam, but they won them all.

Garcia finished with four out of five and Westwood, who like the Spanish star earned 4.5 points of five in Detroit, matched that, while Olazabal, playing for the first time since 1999, left Mickelson with only half a point from five games.