No ONE could accuse Rory McIlroy of taking things easy yesterday. A late arrival on course two years ago in Medinah, the Northern Irishman put in a double shift yesterday alongside the equally industrious Sergio Garcia to help secure a crucial half point for Europe.
After the pair had lost out to Phil Mickelson and Bradley Keegan in the morning, McIlroy and Garcia had little time to lick their wounds. Just half an hour later they were teeing off in the foursomes against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. Given that they are playing under the banner of Europe, surely the European Union must have some guidelines preventing such overwork on the part of golfers. If so, they were breached yesterday.
McIlroy and Garcia were on the first tee at shortly after 8:20am yesterday morning. With the light fading and the air becoming ever chillier, they were still on the course at 6pm. There was not even time for a change of clothes. Pampered sportspeople take note. And of course, in a detail that provides much of the charm of the Ryder Cup, they are playing for nothing more than personal pride and glory for their team.
McIlroy and Garcia certainly salvaged some of the former after their morning struggles. They also paved the way for some more of the latter glory this weekend after a stunning late comeback from two holes down.
Of course, we must point out that Fowler and Walker were playing their second round well. But they were not as bruised as McIlroy and Garcia after their early morning endeavours. While the European pair had fallen to agonising defeat at the last against Mickelson and Bradley, the Americans pulled off a brilliant comeback at the last to earn half a point against Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer, whom they trailed throughout.
Here they were given a taste of their own medicine when securing only a half from the jaws of victory.
As twilight fell, McIlroy and Garcia must have felt like they were being hunted. They were up against it on the back nine, after letting slip a promising lead. By the 13th they were two holes down, as they were at the 16th – when Walker missed a three-foot putt to win.
That was when McIlroy and Garcia’s survival instincts really kicked in. The Northern Irishman holed a 40-foot putt at 17 to keep the match alive. But that still left the Europeans needing to win the last hole and they did, after another stunning shot by Garcia, who hit a 5-wood to the green when McIlroy’s drive had found the rough on the right.
“Sergio and I battled for all 36 holes out there today,” said McIlroy later, as he struggled to stay awake while fulfilling his media chores.
Indeed, he might have expected a pat on the back and a shuttle ride straight to his sleeping quarters after sinking the putt at the 18th hole to secure an unlikely tie.
However, he was forced to wait for the chance to have some repose, although the pats were duly administered – several of the European team had gathered to lend Garcia and McIlroy their support, with Ian Poulter sporting what looked like ovengloves to keep his hands warm. It must have made the job of thumping the backs of his two team-mates feel all the more satisfying. The gestures of appreciation were deserved by a pair whose labours had as much as to do with perspiration as inspiration.