EUROPE retained the Ryder Cup in unforgettable fashion last night, matching the largest-ever comeback on the final day to beat the United States at Medinah.
Wearing navy and white in a tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal’s side produced a sensational recovery from 10-6 down, equalling that achieved by the home side at Brookline in 1999.
They won the first five singles matches and further victories from Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood meant it came down to former world No 1 Martin Kaymer in match 11. He led Steve Stricker by one hole playing the 18th and after leaving himself a six-foot putt to win the match, somehow held his nerve to edge Europe ahead 14-13, with only the Tiger Woods-Francesco Molinari match to be concluded.
It completed an extraordinary day, which started with an incredible mad dash by Rory McIlroy to make his tee time.
Colin Montgomerie, the winning Ryder Cup captain in Wales two years ago, branded the incident as “absolutely ridiculous”. The Scot also said questions needed to be answered about why neither Olazabal, the European captain, nor his four vice-captains had made sure the world No 1 was at the course in plenty of time for his game against Keegan Bradley. It was scheduled for 11.25am Chicago time but McIlroy, apparently, had been thrown by watching the Golf Channel in his hotel room on Saturday night, when they were shown in Eastern Time, one hour ahead of Chicago. McIlroy, who went on to beat the previously undefeated Bradley, 2 and 1, said: “I was hanging about casually in the hotel when I got a phone call to say I had 25 minutes to get to the course. Luckily, there was a State Trooper outside. I wouldn’t have got here if it had not been for him.
“I have never been so worried driving to a course before but it was probably a good thing that I didn’t have to think about it too much.” When it was discovered that the Northern Irishman wasn’t at the course, European team officials frantically tried to get in touch with him but, initially, calls to his room went unanswered.
As the police car stopped outside the clubhouse, McIlroy jumped out and headed straight to the tee.
He didn’t have any time to warm up and arrived on the practice putting green clutching some energy bars and a bottle of water. During a stint for NBC, Montgomerie didn’t pull any punches when he was asked to give his views on the embarrassing incident.
“This is absolutely ridiculous at this level,” said the Scot. “It is quite unbelievable how this could happen with the world’s No 1 golfer. How this happened, I don’t know. Where’s the captain? Where’s the vice captains? Where’s his caddie? He’s lucky that he’s a player that doesn’t need to go to the range.”
It’s not the first time this year that McIlroy has been caught napping. He overslept during his win in the weather-hit USPGA Championship at Kiawah Island last month.
Olazábal paid tribute to his American counterpart, Davis Love III, for agreeing to Europe’s request for the donning of navy and white colours – a tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros – for the closing singles.