Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Davis Love III won three of this year's four majors. But they will be judged a major disappointment in America's Ryder Cup loss to Europe.
Woods, the Masters champion, looked tired and preoccupied and picked up only 1 1/2 of a possible five points. He was beaten, 4 and 2, in Sunday's singles by Italian Costantino Rocca.
"So much has been made about Tiger, what can you say?" said former European Solheim Cup captain Mickey Walker. "It's a great scalp to get and nobody better to get it than Rocca."
PGA champion Love lost all four of his matches and was beaten by Swede Per-Ulrik Johansson in singles, 3 and 2.
Leonard, the British Open winner, played by far the best golf of the three but got only one point of a possible four.
The five European rookies were also slightly more productive than their four U.S. counterparts. American rookies played in 14 matches and racked up 5 1/2 points. The five Europeans played in 15 and got seven points.
A man who faced the possibility of life in a wheelchair, Jose Maria Olazabal can be excused for shedding a tear after helping Europe retain the cup.
Although he lost his singles match Sunday to Lee Janzen by one hole, the 31-year-old Spaniard broke down once the Europeans clinched victory over the United States. It wasn't so long ago, he remembered, when he was in so much pain he had to crawl the 10 feet from his bedroom to the bathroom at his home in Fuenterrabia.
"A year ago I couldn't walk," he said, overcome by emotion. "I'm just proud to be a part of this wonderful team. The spirit this week has been great and I will never forget it."
Olazabal played in four Ryder Cups from 1987 to 1993, compiling a record of 12 wins, six losses and two halves as he forged a devastating partnership with Seve Ballesteros, now the European captain.
Two years ago he was picked as a wild card by then-captain Bernard Gallacher, only to withdraw because of pain in his feet.
Olazabal was unable to play for 18 months as doctors failed to provide a proper diagnosis.
Then a chance meeting with an old friend led to a consultation with a German doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, who discounted the notion that rheumatoid arthritis was causing the problem.
Instead, Muller-Wohlfahrt discovered a hernia in Olazabal's lower back. Following a new course of treatment, Olazabal began his comeback at the Dubai Desert Classic in February.
The Spaniard won his third tournament following his return and climbed to 11th place in the Ryder Cup standings, moving up when compatriot Miguel Martin was removed from the team with a wrist injury.
Olazabal played in five matches, winning two, losing two and halving one.
American captain Tom Kite was a gracious loser at the awarding of the cup, praising Seve Ballesteros' European team and Spain for holding golf's biggest event.
"I would like to congratulate Seve and his Ryder Cup team for a job well done," said Kite. "Spain, you ought to be proud. You've done a great job hosting the biggest tournament in golf.
"You were fair to my players, that's all I asked."
Ballesteros was presented the Ryder Cup by Spanish Princess Elena. He then handed it off one by one to every member of the team as they passed it around like a winning soccer team claiming an international trophy.
Most held it high over their heads. Per-Ulrik Johansson kissed it and Ian Woosnam returned it -- both hands held high -- to Ballesteros.
The ceremony ended as a cloudburst drenched many of the fans and players. It was typical of the weather trouble that dogged the event.
This Ryder Cup in sunny, southern Spain was delayed by two hours on Friday and Saturday by torrential morning rain, and afternoon showers dampened Sunday's last few hours of play.
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland missed on his chance to get a new Ferrari. His sponsor promised him one if he won all of his Ryder Cup matches.
Clarke won in Saturday's fourball but lost in singles to Phil Mickelson. 2 and 1.
Ian Woosnam was not pleased being left out of the first day's play. "It made me angry," said the former Masters champion. "I was so pumped up I just wanted to beat anybody put in front of me. It was like a tiger in a cage. When it comes out, it comes out fierce."