Mixed-up McIlroy makes late arrival at Ryder Cup

Sunday - 9/30/2012, 9:34pm EDT

By NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer

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.

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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.'"

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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.