independent

Monday 21 April 2014

The sporting moments that made 2012: It's a fair cop as Europe's Medinah heroes get their timing right

rory clocks in with a point

On the morning of Sunday, September 30, Rory McIlroy was in his hotel bedroom in Chicago, calmly easing his mind towards the daunting challenge which lay ahead. The caption at the bottom of the television screen had his Ryder Cup singles with Keegan Bradley listed at 12.25. There was plenty of time before heading to the course.

What the 23-year-old didn't realise was that the TV transmission was in Eastern Standard Time: Medinah time would be 11.25. And when he finally answered one of the panic phonecalls attempting to track him down, the reality of his situation hit like a crushing blow to the solar plexus.

Minutes later, he was being driven towards Medinah, courtesy of local deputy police chief Pat Rollins, at a speed which would have landed a normal citizen with a handful of traffic citations. And he got to the course only 11 minutes before his tee-off time, looking suitably embarrassed while clutching energy bars and a bottle of water. Then it was on with his shoes, a couple of putts and he was heading for the first tee.

As it happened, his wonderfully solid technique meant that of all the players on the European team, he was the one likely to be least affected by the absence of pre-round practice. Still, it was a lot too close for comfort, especially in a situation where it was crucial to get early points on the board.

Bradley, meanwhile, had the comfort of spectacular success as Phil Mickelson's partner on the previous two days. So, with the PGA champions of 2011 and 2012 squaring off against each other, the twitchy, hyped-up American had reason to be optimistic.

With the cries of frenzied spectators ringing in their ears, the pair were aware of a sparkling start by Luke Donald at number one and the fierce determination of Europe's talisman, Ian Poulter, in the match directly ahead. Later, as they approached the business end of battle, the Holywood star imposed his class with birdies on the 14th and 15th en route to a 2&1 triumph.

Finally, at the end of a breathtaking afternoon, McIlroy had to come to terms with a different sort of disbelief from his earlier, tee-time lapse. "It was hard to grasp that we had actually pulled it off," he said. "As for myself, when I saw the match-up, I liked that I'd got one of their strongest players. Put a point on the board early for the team."

In an aftermath of US recrimination, Tiger Woods had some interesting views on McIlroy's midday muddle. "I don't know how the European team does it but for the American side, we have all our tee-times set out. What time we're meeting, all those different kinds of things. Still, whatever the Europeans did, they evidently did right. They won."

Indeed they did. And one hopes McIlroy didn't forget to send deputy chief Rollins a Christmas card.

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