Ryder Cup: Relieved Rory McIlroy explains tee-off time mix-up


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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter may have been the key man in Europe's amazing Ryder Cup triumph in Chicago, but an unknown state trooper also had a major hand in the biggest last-day comeback in the event's history.

Trailing 10-6 going into Sunday's 12 singles matches, Europe needed a fast start to have any chance of victory, but Rory McIlroy found himself going a little faster than he bargained for simply to get to Medinah.

Thinking that his match with Keegan Bradley started at 12:25pm, McIlroy was still at the team hotel when he got a panicked phone call telling him he had 25 minutes to get to the first tee.

"I read the tee times on my phone and they are obviously on Eastern time and it's Central time here," the world number one explained. "I was just casually strolling out of my hotel room when I got a phone call saying you have 25 minutes.

"I have never been so worried driving to the course. Luckily there was a state trooper outside who gave me the escort, if not I would not have made it on time.

"I was like, 'Just get me there, get me there.' He was like, 'Do you have motion sickness?' I'm like, 'No, I don't care, just get me to that first tee."'

Two minutes late and he would have forfeited the opening hole against Keegan Bradley, five minutes late and he faced disqualification, but to the relief of every European he arrived in an unmarked car with 10 minutes to go.

Former captain Colin Montgomerie, whose side had the advantage of staying on site for their win at Celtic Manor in 2010, said: "That is absolutely ridiculous at this level. It's quite unbelievable for the world number one golfer. How this happened I do not know.

"Where is the captain? Where are the vice-captains? Where is his caddie?"

Fortunately for McIlroy, he is not a player who needs to spend hours on the range and after a quick warm-up on the putting green, he went out and beat Bradley - who had won all three of his matches with Phil Mickelson - 2&1 as Europe won the first five matches on the course.

Asked how soon he calmed down, McIlroy added: "As soon as I got here. If I warm up for 40 minutes it's a long time anyway. I warmed up for 25 minutes before I won the (US) PGA this year. It was nearly a good thing because I did not have to think about it too much."

Team-mate Sergio Garcia, who experimented with not warming up during his loss for form, joked: "We actually were talking yesterday after dinner and he (McIlroy) said to me, 'You know, when you went through that year without warming up, how did it feel?'

"I said, 'You know, it's quite interesting. The best thing about it is you always come out to the course with the right attitude, because it doesn't matter how bad your shot is on the first tee, it's the best shot you've hit that day."'