It was a day that ended in a historic Ryder Cup victory — but an off-course blunder by Northern Ireland golfing ace Rory McIlroy could have seen it climax in disaster.
Anxious crowds awaiting the Co Down player’s arrival were stunned as he leapt onto the course from a police car ahead of helping Europe to an amazing triumph.
Holywood hotshot Rory arrived just minutes before his tee-time after a mix-up over when he was to start.
While flicking through his mobile phone, Rory had spotted his time for his singles match against Keegan Bradley listed as 12.25pm local time.
However, that turned out to be Eastern time — Chicago, where the competition took place, is in the Central time zone.
The 23-year-old pitched up just 10 minutes before his tee-off time after hitching a ride in an unmarked police car. He leapt out and hit the Medinah Country Club at 11.15am local time, just having time to munch an energy bar and practise a
handful of swings to loosen up before going into action.
It all ended in smiles as he handed Keegan Bradley his first defeat with a solid 2&1 win that kept Europe in the game.
Had he missed his tee-time by five minutes, Europe would have forfeited the point.
“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,” Rory said.
“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 one of those things,”
Asked about his police escort, Rory quipped: “At least I wasn't in the back! We got here as fast as we could.”
Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal said: “We suddenly realised that Rory was not here and we finally got hold of him.”
Rory added: “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.”
Former golfer Colin Montgomerie snapped: “He has got a very fancy watch, maybe he should have used it.
“It is unbelievable to think the world No.1 cannot just sleep in, but watch a programme and think it's Eastern time and not Central. Not to hit a shot before the first tee is just ridiculous.” McIlroy pushed his tee shot right into the rough, but recovered to half the opening hole.
Thousands across the province were last night glued to their television screens to cheer on the European side featuring Rory and Graeme McDowell, along with Darren Clarke as a vice-captain.
Despite his cold start Rory was still able to take time out to shake the hand of a beaming former US President George Bush, while his son, ex-President George W Bush looked on among the 40,000 crowd on the course.