Clarke’s side needed to overturn a three-point deficit in Sunday’s 12 singles matches to claim an unprecedented fourth straight win in the biennial contest.
But although they won three of the first five matches convincingly, Patrick Reed edged a highly-charged opening contest with Rory McIlroy to strike a major psychological blow from which the holders never looked likely to recover.
Wins for Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore took the home side over the winning line and the final score of 17-11 was the biggest winning margin for the United States since a team containing the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Raymond Floyd won by nine points at Walton Heath in 1981.
Clarke, who invited former Ireland rugby captain Paul O’Connell to address his team at Hazeltine, said: “Paul was talking about how you play for the jersey and your number, and when he stopped playing his thing was, did he leave his No 5 jersey in a better state than he found it?
“My question is did I leave Nos 1 to 12 in a better state than I found them? Did I maybe share something different, did I do different things? I can’t answer that, you better ask them (his players). But I know they’ve given their all, everything they could for the badge on the shirt.
“I think they are leaving the jersey in a better place and will be a stronger team for it when it comes to Paris (in 2018).
“You do what you feel is your best and that is what I feel I have done. I have taken advice from great leaders in different fields of performance. I took everything and used it, but unfortunately the Americans played a little bit better. That is the nature of our sport.
“You do what you do for your team. I am only there to guide them. Yes, I have put the pairings out, but they know how much it is down to them. As they are disappointed for me, I am more disappointed for them.”
Clarke’s selection of Thomas Pieters proved to be inspired as the 24-year-old Belgian claimed a record four points on his debut, but opting for experience in his other wild cards of Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer did not pay off as they won just one point from seven matches.