Rory McIlroy was nerve-rackingly close to missing his decisive tee time on the final day of the epic Ryder Cup in 2012. The Northern Irishman is now a veteran at the tournament but aged just 23 a decade ago, his time-keeping was not quite up to scratch.
McIlroy had seemingly got his tee time wrong, believing it was an hour later than the actual 11:30am slot. He had woken up at 9am to call his then-girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, the tennis player who was competing in Beijing.
The now-34-year-old revealed he had received calls from an unknown number before things got serious. A call from his agent prompted him to finally get ready.
“I woke up at nine to call Caroline, who’s in Beijing. I was up for a while – I was just hanging around. I had a couple of missed calls from a number I didn’t recognise at about half-10 so I didn’t pick up,” McIlroy recalled two years later.
“And then I got a phone call just before 11 from my manager Conor Ridge 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.”
McIlroy’s absence was no secret. Fans and the assembled media had noticed that he had not yet arrived, with staff panicking over a potentially embarrassing scenario where he was late for his tee-off. The golf icon would have been disqualified.
PGA of America transport official Erica Stoll was concerned that McIlroy had not been ticked off in her arrivals log less than an hour before his match. She contacted colleague Maggie Budzar who was at the team hotel, which was 12 miles away.
Budzar said: “It was 10.30am. I knew his tee time was 11.25 and he was the third group to go off and we still hadn’t seen him. There was a huge crowd here waiting to video and photograph the players, so everyone knew he hadn’t come down yet.
McIlroy added: “He (police car driver) asked me if I got motion sickness and I said, ‘I don’t care, just get me to that first tee’. I was just lucky he could put the lights on and get me past all the traffic. 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 said to me, ‘Is everything OK, no-one’s hurt or anything?’ And I told him everything was fine.
“The first few shots weren’t good but I knew if I could hang in there for the first six holes I would be fine. I was two-up after six.”
McIlroy and Team Europe will hope for a much less eventful Ryder Cup this year. The tournament gets underway in Rome today, with Team Europe unbeaten on home soil in 30 years.