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Members of Team USA celebrate on the clubhouse balcony following their Ryder Cup victory.(Photo: E.M. Pio-roda, PGA.com)

Victory at Valhalla: Rookies lead USA to Ryder Cup win

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The drought is finally over, thanks to a gang of frisky underdogs who defied the odds and wrested a coveted golden chalise from their mighty foes. Led by six rookies loaded with grit and heart, Team USA defeated Team Europe with a gutsy singles performance on Sunday that gave the red, white and blue a Ryder Cup win for the first time nine years.

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP) -- The Americans didn't need a miracle putt or even the best player in the world to reclaim the Ryder Cup from Europe on Sunday for the first time since 1999.

The United States won 16 1/2-11 1/2, its largest margin of victory since 1981.

Kenny Perry, the 48-year-old Kentucky local who felt this week would make or break his career, was part of an early push that swung momentum toward the Americans. Then came fellow Kentuckian J.B. Holmes, blasting drives over the trees to birdie his last two holes and position the United States for a victory it felt was overdue.

The Ryder Cup was clinched with a handshake when Miguel Angel Jimenez conceded a short par putt to Jim Furyk, giving the Americans the 14 1/2 points they needed to take the 17-inch (44-centimeter) gold chalice.

Dressed in red shirts -- the Sunday color of Tiger Woods, who could only watch from home -- the Americans erupted into hugs and tears behind the 17th green.

"I poured my heart and soul into this for two years," U.S. captain Paul Azinger said, his voice cracking. "The players poured their heart and soul into this for one week. They deserved it. I couldn't be happier."

Ben Curtis and Chad Campbell, the final player picked for this U.S. team, won the final two matches for a lopsided score.

It was only fitting that Furyk won the decisive point.

He felt hollow six years ago at The Belfry watching Paul McGinley make a par putt that clinched victory for Europe, the start of three straight victories that extended its domination in golf's most passionate event.

The only U.S. victory over the last 15 years was in 1999, and only after Justin Leonard knocked in a 45-foot birdie putt to complete the greatest comeback ever at Brookline.

This time, it was the Americans who produced unlikely stars -- Boo Weekley, from the backwoods of the Florida Panhandle; Anthony Kim, the brash kid from the streets of Los Angeles; and Hunter Mahan, who tied a U.S. record by winning 31/2 points as a captain's pick. Mahan was the only player to play all five matches at Valhalla without losing.

Even so, the biggest star might have been Azinger.

It was his idea to overhaul the qualifying system, which he felt was keeping the Americans from fielding their best team. He also doubled his captain's picks, and they all brought something.

"If we win, I'll go down as having the lowest IQ of any genius who ever lived," Azinger said this summer.

European captain Nick Faldo won't get off that easy.

The British press blistered him for benching Garcia and Lee Westwood -- the most successful European tandem -- on Saturday, the first time either of them had ever missed a match. Even more peculiar was putting double major winner Padraig Harrington, Westwood and Ian Poulter in the final three singles on Sunday.

The Ryder Cup was over before their matches were over.

Poulter closed out Steve Stricker 3 and 2 to go 4-1 for the week and validate Faldo picking him over Darren Clarke. Even so, Europe didn't quite have the team spirit that carried it to record victories over the Americans the last two times. And it sure didn't get the performance from some of its best players.

Garcia, Westwood and Harrington failed to win a match all week.

Check back often as this story will be updated soon.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.