Jamie Donaldson, unaware he already had done enough to retain the Ryder Cup, hit a 9-iron that settled 2 feet from the cup on the 15th hole. Keegan Bradley walked onto the green, saw Donaldson's ball next to the hole, removed his cap and conceded the birdie.
And the celebration was on.
The result in the record book was Europe 16, United States 11. It's an old story for the Americans.
Europe won for third straight time, and now has won eight of the last 10.
"It came down to me to close it out, but it's all about the team," Donaldson said. "Everyone played their heart out to retain the Ryder Cup. And that's what it's all about."
McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose made sure the Americans would not get their redemption from the meltdown at Medinah two years ago as the first team to blow a four-point lead at home.
McIlroy was 6-under par on his first six holes and trounced Rickie Fowler to set the tone. The Americans put plenty of red on the board early, just not for long. McDowell was 3-down after five holes and Rose was four behind after six holes. McDowell rallied to beat Jordan Spieth, while Rose earned a halve against Hunter Mahan.
Martin Kaymer, who holed the winning point at Medinah, put Europe on the cusp of victory when he chipped in for eagle on the 16th to beat Bubba Watson.
That set the stage for Donaldson.
"The shot of my life," he called it.
Europe captain Paul McGinley, who spoke all week about a template for success, stood by the 15th green with the rest of the players who had finished their matches. Donaldson was mobbed by his teammates, another happy occasion for Europe.
Asked for the highlight of the week, McGinley turned to Donaldson and said, "When you look at a face like that." He put both hands on Donaldson's face and hugged him.
The Americans still can't figure out this exhibition of team play.
They even brought back Tom Watson, at 65 the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history and the last American captain to win on European soil. Watson made a series of questionable moves during team play and the Americans didn't have much hope on Sunday.
Watson attributed the loss to foursomes -- Europe was unbeaten in both sessions and collected seven of the eight points -- though McGinley wrote that off as a fluke. Asked what he would tell his team in a final meeting, Watson said, "You played your best, but it wasn't enough. You've got to find out what it takes a little better."
Watson sure didn't find it.
Except for a victory at Valhalla behind captain Paul Azinger in 2008, the Americans haven't solved this Ryder Cup puzzle.
Phil Mickelson, on the bench for both sessions Saturday, finished off a 2-1 week by beating Stephen Gallacher. Asked about the future of the Ryder Cup, Mickelson went back to that last U.S. victory.
"We had a great formula in '08, and I don't know why we strayed from it," Mickelson said. "What Zinger did was really a good format. Maybe we should relive that."
Azinger has said that Watson never asked him about his "pod" system in which the U.S. team was broken into three groups of four players and stuck together the entire week.
No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe.
The Americans now have to wait two more years -- Hazeltine outside Minneapolis is the next Ryder Cup -- to figure that out.
Lefty Doesn't Mince Words About Watson
ESPN.com's Bob Harig and Michael Collins dissect the American Ryder Cup loss.
Europe Wins Ryder Cup For Third Straight Time
ESPN golf analyst Dottie Pepper discusses Europe's third straight win over the United States, and the criticism directed at Team USA captain Tom Watson.