- Associated Press - Sunday, September 30, 2012

MEDINAH, ILL. (AP) - Next time the Illinois State Police are looking for donations, their first call should be to Rory McIlroy.

The world’s No. 1 golfer needed a police escort to make it to the first tee on time Sunday after mixing up his time zones. He made it with 10 minutes to spare, giving him just enough time to scarf down an energy bar, take a few strokes on the putting green and hustle to the tee.

“I’ve never been so worried driving to the golf course before,” McIlroy said. “Luckily there was a state trooper who gave me the escort to here. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have got here in time.”

McIlroy was reading the Ryder Cup tee times on his phone and saw that he and Bradley were teeing off 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,” European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. “Nobody knew.”

Finally, at 11, someone called McIlroy.

Getting a lift in an unmarked squad car, McIlroy pulled up at the Medinah clubhouse 10 minutes before he and Bradley went off.

“At least I wasn’t in the back,” McIlroy joked.

He was on the first tee at 11:22 a.m., a sheepish grin on his face. Fans were well aware of his gaffe, and they serenaded him with chants of “Central time zone” and “What’s your tee time?”

“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.

The fashionably late arrival didn’t seem to bother him. Though he launched his opening drive well right of the fairway, he quickly recovered and was 1 up on Keegan Bradley after the fourth hole. His 2-and-1 victory delivered the third point in what would be an improbable comeback for the Europeans, who erased a four-point deficit to win the Ryder Cup.


NO SECOND GUESSES: A lot of people might second-guess U.S. captain Davis Love III for sitting his hottest team Saturday afternoon.

Phil Mickelson won’t be one of them.

Mickelson jumped to Love’s defense Sunday night when the captain was asked whether he should have played Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in fourballs Saturday.

“You cannot put that on him,” Mickelson said. “If anything, it was me.”

Mickelson and Bradley had won their first three matches handily, providing the spark as the Americans piled up the points early. Their 7-and-6 thrashing of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in Saturday morning’s foursome tied the largest margin of victory in an 18-hole team match.

But Love gave them a rest in the afternoon, and Europe managed to snatch wins in the final two matches. That momentum shift fueled Europe’s improbable comeback Sunday.

“Keegan and I knew going in that we were not playing in the afternoon and we said on the first tee, `We’re going to put everything we have into this one match because we’re not playing the afternoon,’” Mickelson said. “And when we got to 10, I went to Davis and said, `Listen, you’re seeing our best. You cannot put us in the afternoon because we emotionally and mentally are not prepared for it.’”


SNEAKING A PEEK: Englishman Luke Donald did. American Dustin Johnson tried not to. Phil Mickelson didn’t like what he saw when he finally got around to doing it.

Only the Europeans were glad they did at the end.

Scoreboard-watching at the Ryder Cup turned into a competition of its own Sunday. Some players avoided even one glance, admitting they were afraid of the added pressure it might pile on their match.

“I tried not to look all day,” Johnson said after beating Nicolas Colsaerts 3 and 2. “I had a tough match as it is.”

“Now I look up,” Mickelson said after losing 1-up to Justin Rose at the 18th, “and I’m obviously a little worried.”

He had good reason.

Donald, who went off in the opening match against Bubba Watson, knew he’d be the first one finished and that he’d have plenty of time to get a sense of how things were going for the Europeans. Still, he couldn’t resist.

“I had a sneak peek at the board,” he conceded, “a couple of times.”

He could afford to. The Englishman built a lead at the second hole that he never relinquished before winning 2 and 1.


`HOME’ WIN: Luke Donald got the best possible outcome, a Europe win in his adopted home.

“I felt very much at home this week,” he said. “It was great to have all the cheers I did. I didn’t feel so sectioned out as probably some of the other guys on our team would have.”

Though the Englishman wears the European flag on his uniform, Chicago fans consider him one of their own. He went to Northwestern, after all, and he and his wife still make their home in the northern suburbs. Even when he was delivering Europe’s first point of the day _ and his second in three matches _ fans couldn’t bring themselves to razz him.

Those jeers that sounded like boos? They were actually cheers of “LUUUUUKE!”

“It certainly helped,” Donald said after he beat Bubba Watson 2 and 1. “I felt a lot of love from the crowd.”


WORTH THE WAIT: Paul Lawrie was worth the wait.

The 1999 British Open champion went 13 years between Ryder Cup appearances, and looked rusty in losing his first two matches at Medinah. When the Europeans needed to go on a win streak Sunday, however, Lawrie delivered.

His 5-and-3 thrashing of FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker was Europe’s biggest victory of the day, and was part of a five-win run that swung the momentum firmly in the Europeans’ favor. They went on to erase a 10-6 deficit and won the Ryder Cup 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. Europe has won five of the last six Ryder Cups.

Lawrie’s only other Ryder Cup appearance came in 1999, when he was on the other side of a record comeback. He desperately wanted a different experience, and even sat out the U.S. Open to bolster his chances of qualifying for the European team. He clinched his spot with a four-shot victory in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, his second European Tour win of the year.


DIVOTS: Tiger Woods’ record in Ryder Cup singles is now 4-1-2, and both halves came against Italians. He halved with Constantino Rocca in his first Ryder Cup appearance in 1997, and with Francesco Molinari in Sunday’s final match. … Phil Mickelson set the U.S. record for matches played, at 38. He also set a record for most singles losses, with five. … Steve Stricker is the first U.S. captain’s pick to go 0-4. Curtis Strange was 0-3 in 1995.

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