Brian Harman reacts to winning 151st Open Championship
The ‘Miracle at Medinah’ has gone down in sporting folklore as one of the most dramatic comebacks of all time and certainly the greatest in Ryder Cup history. But the epic 2012 triumph nearly didn’t happen at all, thanks to Rory McIlroy’s time-keeping. The United States held a seemingly unassailable 10-6 lead heading into the final day and only needed four and a half points to regain the trophy from Europe.
The visitor’s captain, José María Olazábal, knew that it was vital that his team got points on the board early if they were to have any chance of salvaging their hopes of retaining the cup on American soil, so it was no surprise when the Spaniard named world No. 1 McIlory on one of his early tee times.
The Northern Irishman was down to face Keegan Bradley in the third match of the day, with a scheduled tee time of 11.25am. But there was just one problem, McIlory had seen his tee time, which was published in America’s Eastern Time Zone. But the event was being staged on the American Central Time Zone, which is an hour behind. The confusion led McIlory to believe that he was teeing off at 12.25pm instead of his actual time an hour earlier.
As he prepared to leave his hotel room, the four-time Major winner received a call asking where he was because he was due to tee off in 25 minutes time.
A now slightly rattled McIlroy quickly made his way to the lobby. His hotel was only 15 minutes away from the Medinah Country Club, but with 40,000 fans in attendance actually getting to the course was already going to be a tall order.
Fortunately for the world’s No. 1 golfer, he had a police escort on hand to get him through the bulging traffic. Lombard Police Department’s Deputy Chief Pat Rollins threw him in the front of the car and raced him up to the course.
The consequences of a player missing their tee time could have proved fatal for either team. The rules of the competition stated that if a player was two minutes late then they would lose the first hole and if they were more than five minutes late they would lose the match.
McIlory arrived at the course 10 minutes before he was due on the first tee box and only had time to take a few practice putts before he was brought face-to-face with Bradley. He didn’t even have time to do any practice swings away from the hoards of spectators, who greeted him with shouts of “wakey wakey” and “how’s your hangover?”
Despite the drama, the Northern Irishman incredibly took it all in his stride and went on to beat his American opponent two and one.
Remarkably, Europe won all of the first five singles matches, wiping out the USA’s advantage before Martin Kaymer held his nerve to beat Steve Stricker and clinch one of the most unlikely Ryder Cup victories 14 1/2-13 1/2.
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Now able to relax, McIlroy explain what had happened prior to his match. He said: “I thought I was off at 12.25pm instead of 11.25am and was casually making my way out of the hotel room door, and I got a call saying you have 25 minutes till tee off.
“I was a bit worried then. But as soon as I got to the course I was fine and settled into the match and obviously delighted to win. I read the tee times on my phone, and they are obviously on Eastern time and it’s Central time here. So an hour back, so [it’s just] one of those things.
“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. I was with a policeman, getting through traffic. I got here with about 10 minutes to spare, put my shoes on, a couple of putts, just your average sort of warm-up back at the course.”
McIlroy will likely have a huge say in the destination of the Ryder Cup later this month when the European Team try to win the trophy back from the USA in Italy, just as long as he can remember which time zone he’s in.
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