MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — This wasn’t the start Europe planned.
Already facing a big deficit at the Ryder Cup, Rory McIlroy needed a police escort to the first tee after mixing up his time zones. Watching TV, he saw the tee time for his singles match against Keegan Bradley listed at 12:25 p.m.
One problem: That was Eastern time. Medinah Country Club, outside Chicago, is in the Central time zone.
“All of the sudden we realized Rory was not here and we started to look for him,” Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. “We finally got a hold of him.”
The world’s No. 1 player pulled up at the clubhouse 10 minutes before he and Bradley went off, giving him just enough time to get to the tee. He came off the stairs leading to the first tee — at 11:22 a.m. — with a sheepish grin on his face and had no time to warm up. He promptly launched his opening drive well right of the fairway, the ball coming to rest in a nest of TV cables.
McIlroy recovered quickly, however. His approach shot landed just short of the green, and he chipped to within inches. He and Bradley gave each other their short putts and halved the hole with pars.
Europe trailed 10-6 going into Sunday’s singles matches, and history favors the Americans. Yes, the U.S. delivered the largest comeback in Ryder Cup history after trailing by the same deficit at Brookline back in 1999. That was at home, though, and the Europeans will have to overcome a hostile U.S. crowd along with their four-point gap.
The fans were doing their part early, revved up by Chicago Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelison and Bradley. The Ryder Cup rookie, who’s had more energy this week than a 4-year-old hopped on Pixy Stix, sprinted out to the first hole 45 minutes before his tee time, raising his arms and wiggling his fingers in a call for the fans to get even louder. They responded with a deafening roar that could be heard all over Medinah’s No. 3.
But Europe has the momentum after Saturday’s frenzied finish. Just when the Americans appeared to have the Ryder Cup all but locked up, the Europeans snatched the last two matches, including a spectacular performance by Ian Poulter. With his eyes bulging and fists pumping, the Englishman made five straight birdies to steal a point from the U.S. It was the only match Europe won when it trailed on the back nine.
As if that isn’t inspiration enough, the Europeans are wearing the navy slacks and sweater and white polo shirt that were the trademark of their most beloved Ryder Cup player, the late Seve Ballesteros. His silhouette adorns their shirts and sweaters.
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