THE United States retained the Ryder Cup on a day of high drama at The Belfry in England yesterday. Tom Watson's team overcame a one-point overnight deficit to sink European dreams of regaining the title, but Europe's cause not helped by big guns Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Marie Olazabal all losing and Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo halving their matches. Fortunes fluctuated throughout an afternoon sprinkled with outstanding golf and unbearable tension. Despite a hole-in-one from England's Faldo and singles victories for Colin Montgomerie, Peter Baker and Joakim Haeggman, European skipper Bernard Gallacher experienced the bitter taste of defeat for the second time in a row. While European fans were left to ponder what might have been, the Americans present in the capacity 36,000 crowd could not contain their joy at their team's 15-13 triumph. It was the first time in three attempts that America have won at The Belfry where they were well beaten in 1985 and tied 14-14 in 1989. The singles winners for the US were Chip Beck, Payne Stewart, Jim Gallagher, Davis Love III, Ray Floyd and Tom Kite. The only halved matches were the opening one between Woosnam and Fred Couples and the anchor match which pitted Faldo with Paul Azinger. No fewer than six of the 11 singles contests went to the 18th hole. The decisive match proved to be the one between Love and Italian debutant Costantino Rocca. With two holes remaining, Rocca was one-up. However, Rocca missed a three-foot putt for par and a half at the 567-yard 17th and took five at the last to be beaten by one-hole. Leading 9-8 at the start of the day, Europe required 51/2 points for overall victory, while the Americans needed six points to hold on to the Cup they won by the narrowest of margins at Kiawah Island in 1991. Woosnam looked on course to win the opening singles but Couples hit back and Woosnam watched aghast as a 12-footer for victory ran three feet wide. Beck, one of the most under-rated players on the American team, produced the outstanding comeback of the day to defeat Barry Lane on the 18th and maintain his 100 per cent singles record over three Cup appearances. Two-up at the turn, England's Lane extended his lead to three holes by the 13th. But Beck hit back to win four of the last five holes including the 15th where he holed a 30-footer for an eagle-three. At the 18th Lane drove into sand and his second plunged into the lake. Although Beck missed the green right he chipped to within inches to secure the first win of the day. Less than 20 minutes later, Montgomerie evened the score when he pipped reigning US Open champion Lee Janzen by one-hole, thanks to a half at the last. Montgomerie was in front for all but one hole when Janzen made a birdie at the short 14th to go to all square. But the burly Scot regained his advantage with an eagle at the 15th and held on. Baker continued the magnificent form he had shown all week to overcome Cory Pavin by two holes. Fittingly, he ended the contest by holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to give Europe an 111/2-91/2 edge. Stewart reduced the arrears when he completed a 3 and 2 victory over Mark James on the 16th green. But European hopes were soon boosted when Haeggman scored a thrilling 18th-hole success over John Cook. The players were all square after 17 with 15 holes being halved. But Cook pushed his drive at the last into sand and, like Lane before him, failed to carry the water hazard. Europe were now within two points of victory, but with Langer, Ballesteros and Olazabal all behind the destiny of the Cup appeared to lay in the hands of Rocca and Faldo, both of whom were one-up. Ballesteros was always struggling after dropping the first two holes with bogeys. Turning in 42, six over, he was three down after nine and fell further adrift at the 10th. Fellow Spaniard Olazabal saw his hopes evaporate when veteran Floyd made three successive birdies from the 12th. Faldo produced the shot of a remarkable week when he aced the 189-yard 14th with a six-iron. It was only the second hole-in-one in Ryder Cup history. Sadly for Europe, it was not enough.