MEDINAH, Ill. — The decisive putt went in and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal closed his eyes and looked skyward.

Seve Ballesteros has played a part in all his great Ryder Cup memories, and this one was no different.

"Seve will always be present with this team," Olazabal said, his eyes watering as he spoke of Ballesteros, who died last May of a brain tumor. "I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing, and I think they did."

Wearing Ballesteros' trademark navy slacks and white polo shirt Sunday, the silhouette of the beloved Spaniard on their left sleeve, the Europeans won the Ryder Cup in an improbable comeback. Down by six midway through the Saturday afternoon session, the Europeans revived their chances by stealing the final two matches. They then came out Sunday and steamrolled the Americans, winning the first five matches and gaining more and more confidence with every blue point that went up on the board.

By the time Martin Kaymer and Steve Stricker got to the 18th green, an impossible victory had become inevitable. Kaymer delivered the critical 14th point to retain the cup, and Francesco Molinari gave it to the Europeans outright with a halve on the final match.

"We're four points down. You're not going to turn around and say you're going to win, but we knew we had a little chance," Ian Poulter said. "Whether it was Seve looking down on us or Seve on the shirt, it was enough. Enough to bring it home."

It was Europe's fifth victory in the last six Ryder Cups, and seventh in the last nine.

Olazabal fought back tears again when fans chanted "Seve! Seve!" at the closing ceremony.

"I'm very sure he is very happy where he is today," Olazabal said.

Ballesteros was a five-time major champion, but he is remembered most for the Ryder Cup. His "Spanish Armada" partnership with Olazabal remains the standard, and he is so beloved by the Europeans that the mere sound of his voice was enough to inspire them at Celtic Manor two years ago. This is the first Ryder Cup since his death and Olazabal was determined to see that his legacy endured.

He regaled his players with stories of their times together – they were a staggering 11-2-2 – and laughed as he recalled the countless times Ballesteros conjured up a shot to steal a match or reverse momentum.

And to ensure his mentor was with the Europeans "every step of the way," Olazabal embroidered their bags with a silhouette of Ballesteros' reaction to winning the 1984 British Open at St. Andrews. Ballesteros adopted the image as his business logo, and even had a tattoo of it on his left forearm.

"There's no doubt that (the victory) has been part inspired by him," Sergio Garcia said. "But also mostly from our captain, Jose. What an amazing guy. What an unbelievable captain."

Olazabal kept his composure even as the Americans piled up the points the first two days, refusing to deviate from his plan. When Luke Donald and Poulter won those last two matches Saturday, he front-loaded the European singles lineup, sending out his strongest players first in hopes of building a wave of momentum that would lift the rest of the team. It was the same strategy the Americans successfully used to erase an identical deficit in Brookline in 1999.

Europe won eight matches Sunday, and the biggest points were delivered by players – Kaymer and Molinari – who had come up empty until then.

"It's been a tough week," Olazabal said. "The first two days, nothing went our way and we struggled on the greens. This morning, I felt a little change in that regard. We started to make a few putts and the Americans started to miss them."

As the tide began to turn, Olazabal remained stoic, shuttling between holes to watch the critical matches.

But when Kaymer's putt dropped, Olazabal could no longer contain himself. Tears filled his eyes, and he looked up at the sky. He and his good friend had yet another Ryder Cup win.

" All men die, but not all men live. And you made me feel alive again this week,." Olazabal told his team.

And Graeme McDowell didn't have a doubt about one thing:

"If Seve could have wrote this script, I think he would have wrote it just this way."

Loading Slideshow...
  • Jim Furyk

    USA's Jim Furyk reacts after missing a putt on the 16th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Players pour Champagne on Europe's Justin Rose as the celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Peter Hanson

    Europe's Sergio Garcia, left to right, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Peter Hanson celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • European fans are sprayed with Champagne as they celebrate winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Francesco Molinari

    Europe's Francesco Molinari celebrates after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • European players celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Sergio Garcia

    Europe's Sergio Garcia celebrates after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Sergio Garcia

    Europe's Sergio Garcia throws his shoes to fans after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald

    Europe's Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Jose Maria Olazabal

    European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal celebrates after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Jose Maria Olazabal

    European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal celebrates after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • European players celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • European fans celebrates after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy

    Europe's Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson

    USA's Jim Furyk reacts as European players celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. Next to Furyk are Phil Mickelson and Webb Simpson. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Paul Lawrie

    Europe's Paul Lawrie reacts after making a putt on the third hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Graeme McDowell

    Europe's Graeme McDowell reacts after missing a putt on the third hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Europe's Rory McIlroy hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Jason Dufner

    USA's Jason Dufner reacts after making a putt on the second hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Peter Hanson

    Europe's Peter Hanson hits out of a bunker on the third hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Nicolas Colsaerts

    Europe's Nicolas Colsaerts reacts after making a putt on the second hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Steve Stricker

    USA's Steve Stricker reacts after winning the second hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Keegan Bradley

    USA's Keegan Bradley reacts after making a birdie putt on the 11th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Tiger Woods

    USA's Tiger Woods hits a drive on the second hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Europe's Rory McIlroy makes his way to the first tee before a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Jose Maria Olazabal

    European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal watches drives on the first tee during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Tiger Woods

    USA's Tiger Woods wipes his eyes after hitting out of a bunker on the second hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Tiger Woods

    USA's Tiger Woods hits a drive on the third hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Fred Couples, Darren Clarke

    Co-captains Fred Couples and Darren Clarke chat on the 11th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Paul Lawrie

    Europe's Paul Lawrie hits a drive on the ninth hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • The blimp flies near some skywriting during singles matches at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Phil Mickelson

    USA's Phil Mickelson reacts after making a birdie on the 11th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Webb Simpson

    USA's Webb Simpson reacts after missing a putt on the 12th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Ian Poulter

    Europe's Ian Poulter reacts after making a putt on the 12th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Luke Donald

    Europe's Luke Donald reacts after hitting out of a bunker on the 17th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. The hole gave Donald a win in the match over USA's Bubba Watson. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Bubba Watson

    USA's Bubba Watson reacts after chipping in for a birdie on the 16th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Phil Mickelson

    USA's Phil Mickelson reacts after missing a putt on the 13th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Europe's Rory McIlroy hits out of a bunker on the 14th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Dustin Johnson

    USA's Dustin Johnson walks across the bridge on the 13th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Keegan Bradley

    USA's Keegan Bradley reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 12th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Keegan Bradley

    USA's Keegan Bradley reacts after missing a putt on the 16th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Brandt Snedeker

    USA's Brandt Snedeker reacts after missing a putt on the 15th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy

    USA's Keegan Bradley congratulates Europe's Rory McIlroy after their singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy

    Darren Clarke congratulates Europe's Rory McIlroy after winning his singles match against USA's Keegan Bradley at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Webb Simpson, Ian Poulter

    USA's Webb Simpson, right, congratulates Europe's Ian Poulter after their singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Ian Poulter

    Europe's Ian Poulter acknowledges the crowd after winning singles match against USA's Webb Simpson at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Ian Poulter

    Europe's Ian Poulter reacts after defeating USA's Webb Simpson during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Europe's Justin Rose reacts after defeating USA's Phil Mickelson on the 18th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Justin Rose

    Europe's Justin Rose reacts after defeating USA's Phil Mickelson on the 18th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Davis Love III, Dustin Johnson

    USA's captain Davis Love III congratulates Dustin Johnson after his singles match win over Europe's Nicolas Colsaerts at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Justin Rose

    Europe's Justin Rose reacts after defeating USA's Phil Mickelson on the 18th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)