Rory McIlroy confessed that he never would have forgiven himself had he missed his tee time and cost Europe a vital point in Sunday’s dramatic singles comeback.
But after arriving at the course with just 10 minutes to spare after getting his tee time wrong, he produced a sensational performance to hand US pin up boy Keegan Bradley a 2 and 1 defeat that gave Europe hope of a final day miracle.
While Graeme McDowell lost 2 and 1 to Zach Johnson, Europe won the first five matches to square the scoreboard at 11-11 and ease Jose Maria Olazabal’s heart palpitations.
McIlroy almost gave his skipper a heart-attack when he needed a police escort to get to the course on time or risk disqualification.
“It’s my own fault, but if I let down these 11 other boys and vice captains and captains this week I would never forgive myself,” McIlroy said.
“I’m just obviously happy to get the point and help the cause out a little bit today.
“I thought I was off at 12:25 instead of 11:25 and was casually making my way out of the hotel room door, and I got a call saying, you have 25 minutes till tee off. I was a bit worried then.
“But as soon as I got to the course I was fine and settled into the match and obviously delighted to win.”
McIlroy revealed that he read the tee times on his phone, thinking they were in local, Central Time. They weren’t.
“So an hour back, so one of those things,” McIlroy said.
As for the police escort, he could see the funny side.
“At least I wasn’t in the back! We got here as fast as we could.”
He eventually screeched into Medinah in at 11:14, just 11 minutes before his tee time and ran to the locker room to put on his golf shoes.
McIlroy wasn’t quite on a mission from God, as the Blues Brothers liked to say, and if he was under pressure he didn’t show it.
There was no time for the usual warm up on the range and instead he stroked a few putts and hit a few hasty chips before heading out into the cauldron of battle.
“I calmed as soon as I got here,” McIlroy said. “If I warm up for 40 minutes, it’s a long time anyway… It was probably a really good thing I didn’t have to think about it too much.”
Skipper Olazabal could only smile at the drama of it all when asked how hard his heart was racing when he discovered that McIlroy was AWOL on the big day.
“Racing quicker than expected obviously,” he told American television. “We did not have that in mind. All of a sudden we realised that Rory was not here and we started to look for him and nobody knew. So finally we got hold of him and he came in with a police escort and just made it 10 or 11 minutes before he teed off.”
Colin Montgomerie was less than sympathetic to McIlroy’s near miss.
“He has got a very fancy watch, maybe he should have used it,” Montgomerie said on SkySports. “It is unbelievable to think that the world number one can not just sleep in but watch a programme and think it’s Eastern time and not Central.
“Not to hit a shot before the first tee is just ridiculous.”
Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has seen Lionel Messi produce miracles, but as a guest of Olazabal’s he looked to be thoroughly enjoying a pulsating match that ebbed and flowed before the sparkle of the man from Holywood proved too much for Bradley’s blind passion.
There were cries of “Wakey-wakey”, “What time is it?”, and “How’s you’re hangover” from the massive crowd, but McIlroy soon silenced the hecklers with some stunning golf.
He kept the usually animated Bradley quiet early on, winning the fourth to go one up and then doubling his advantage after a half in birdies at the par-five fifth by chipping in birdie from just short of the sixth green.
He even had a chance to go three up at the par-five seventh but his slick eight foot birdie chance slipped by.
Bradley wouldn’t go away, however, curling in a left to right putt for a two at the eighth.
McIlroy won the ninth, punching the air when his six footer dropped for his fourth birdie of the day and a two up lead at the turn.
Bradley won the 10th in birdie to get back to one down and drew level when McIlroy airmailed the 12th. But the Ulsterman is not the world number one for nothing.
The American stymied himself behind a tree with his approach to the par-five 13th and failed to match McIlroy’s sand save birdie and then fell two down with three to play when McIlroy stiffed a wedge at the 15th.
It all ended at the par-three 17th, where they halved in par. McIlroy took off his cap and bowed theatrically to the crowd from the waist. Job done. Panic over.
McDowell was three down after four and never got within striking distance of Johnson, who was level par to McDowell’s two over when the match ended at the 17th.