LONDON (AP) — Not even the family of Seve Ballesteros could have imagined a Ryder Cup finish quite like this.
It was after midnight in Spain when a European team inspired by the "spirit of Seve" and captained by his close friend Jose Maria Olazabal completed its improbable comeback victory over the United States in Medinah, Ill.
"What happened yesterday went beyond sports," Ivan Ballesteros, Seve's nephew and vice president of the Madrid-based Seve Ballesteros foundation, told The Associated Press on Monday.
"We want to thank Jose Maria for remembering Seve not just throughout the week but for always keeping his memory alive. I would say that not even Hollywood screenwriters could have imagined what happened yesterday."
Seve Ballesteros died in May 2011 from a brain tumor, and the team played in his honor, overcoming a 10-4 deficit to win 14 1/2-13 1/2 after an epic day of singles matches.
Ballesteros was everywhere Sunday. His image adorned European bags and shirts, his name was sung by Europe's fans well into the night and his spirit was invoked by players wearing the navy trousers and white polo shirt that were the Spaniard's trademark.
To a man, Europe's players said it was Seve's memory they were attempting to uphold.
"Lots of feelings and emotions were revived again," the Madrid-based Seve Foundation, which collects funds to promote brain tumor support, said in a statement. "It was great to see the European team showing that fighting spirit Seve always showed."
Olazabal was emotional again Monday morning as he cradled the cup and recalled his former playing partner.
"If someone had to write a script for it, that would be the ideal one," Olazabal told Britain's Sky Sports. "For that to happen, Seve had to have something to do with it."
Britain, already spoiled by an unprecedented summer of sporting success this year that included the London Olympics and the country's first Tour de France victory, added another memorable triumph to the list.
"After London 2012, Bradley Wiggins, Andy Murray and the rest, we were due an anti-climax. But this sporting year is incapable of dullness, one-sidedness, hollow drama," the Daily Telegraph said.
Britain had heroes everywhere — from Luke Donald beating Bubba Watson in the opening singles to the tight victories secured by Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.
Justin Rose beat Phil Mickelson with a birdie at the 17th that was perhaps the key turning point Sunday. And then there was Ian Poulter, who started Europe's charge by making five straight birdies in the final match of Saturday's fourballs to take a crucial point and leave the score at 10-6 going into the final day.
"I'm officially taking two years off and I'll see you at the next one," said Poulter, who won a match-high four points and was labeled the "modern-day Seve" by McIlroy.
It was a German, Martin Kaymer, who rolled in a putt on the 18th hole to beat Steve Stricker on Sunday and ensure that Europe retained the cup.
"I never had such a feeling before," Kaymer said. "I'll never forget it and I'll be telling my grandchildren about it."
"Wunderbar," blared the headline in Britain's Daily Express.
With a nod to Europe's economic troubles, the Irish Times said: "Martin Kaymer, a cool German, gave Europe a massive bailout that contributed to the most unlikeliest comeback in Ryder Cup history."
Belgium — hardly a golfing stronghold — reveled in having one of its own in the winning lineup. Nicolas Colsaerts was a virtual unknown in Belgium a few months ago, but Europe's biggest hitter graced the front pages of two of the country's main newspapers Monday after making a memorable debut that included beating Tiger Woods in Friday's fourballs.
Twitter was awash with Ryder reaction from sports personalities past and present who stayed up late to cheer on Europe from afar.
"The victory was epic!" Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, a keen golfer, tweeted.
Paul Casey, an English golfer who played in three Ryder Cups from 2004-08, added: "Woke up this morning and it wasn't a dream. The most amazing Ryder Cup ever! Well done lads, especially JMO."
Four-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Matthew Pinsent of Britain offered his own take.
"Ironic that in the cold light of morning the US played better in the team formats than we did and EUR were great 'individually,'" Pinsent tweeted.
AP Sports Writer Raf Casert in Brussels and Associated Press writers Joe Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.