Golf: How America put McIlroy back on track

By Kevin Garside of the Independent

Rory McIlroy has two quick-thinking officials to thank for his role in winning the Ryder Cup. Photo / AP
Rory McIlroy has two quick-thinking officials to thank for his role in winning the Ryder Cup. Photo / AP

It was America that won it. Rory McIlroy has two quick-thinking officials from the PGA of America and Lombard deputy police chief Pat Rollins to thank for his role in winning the Ryder Cup. Without them, he would not have made his tee time and the point he won against Keegan Bradley would have been awarded to America, handing the Ryder Cup to the hosts.

The alarm was raised by 27-year-old Erica Stoll, a PGA transport official at Medinah, who noticed that McIlroy had not arrived by official car. A sweep of the course revealed that he was not on site, prompting an urgent call to her colleague Maggie Budzar at the team hotel.

A frantic search of the players' 14th floor by hotel housekeeping staff revealed one room still occupied. McIlroy was due off in the third match of the morning, which was half an hour away. Budzar, 28, said: "I knew JP [JP Fitzgerald, McIlroy's caddie] had left about an hour earlier. I knew his [McIlroy's] tee time was 11.25 and he was the third group to go off.

And we still hadn't seen him.

"We tag-team with my colleague at the course, ticking them in and out. There was a huge crowd here waiting to video and photograph the players so everyone knew he [McIlroy] hadn't come down yet. The crowd were getting antsy asking where he was so I just lied and said he had already left.

"And then I started getting worried that something had happened to him or that he had taken a different ride to the course. The hotel said he was maybe on the players' floor. There was only one room still in use when housekeeping checked and a male voice said not to come in. We figured it had to be him because by now we knew he wasn't at the course. I called the European tour officials to alert them. We then had someone go up to his room. He was in a panic when he came down."

McIlroy was just emerging from his room when the staff member intercepted him at 11.52am. He was just taking a call from his manager, Conor Ridge, who had phoned to wish him luck. McIlroy had ignored a series of calls while in his room because he did not recognise the numbers. Only now did McIlroy understand the pickle he was in. "I woke up at 9am to call Caroline [Wozniacki, his girlfriend] who's in Beijing. I was up for a while. I was just hanging around," he said.

"I had a couple of missed calls from a number I didn't recognise about half 10 so I didn't pick up. And then I got a phone call from my manager saying, 'Are you at the golf course yet?' I said 'No, I'm not.' He said, 'But you're teeing off in 25 minutes.' I said, 'No I'm not, it's an hour and 25.' He said, 'You're taking the mick, you are at the golf course.' And I said, 'No I'm not.' He said, 'Well, you'd better get there.'

"I was just lucky there was a state trooper [Rollins] downstairs who could put the lights on and get me past all the traffic. If we hadn't had them on it would have taken another 10 minutes from the highway junction. I've never been as frightened going to a golf course in my life; once I got out on the golf course I calmed down a bit. Keegan [Bradley] said to me, 'Is everything OK, no one's hurt or anything?' I told him everything was fine."

-THE INDEPENDENT

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