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Sporting flaskback: How Europe pulled off the Miracle at Medinah despite Rory McIlroy's tee-time mix-up

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Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's stunning success in 2012, after he had a scare over his Sunday tee-time....

Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's stunning success in 2012, after he had a scare over his Sunday tee-time....

Andrew Redington

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell celebrate together after winning the Ryder Cup in 2012

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell celebrate together after winning the Ryder Cup in 2012

Superstars: Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell

Superstars: Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at 2012 Ryder Cup

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at 2012 Ryder Cup

Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's stunning success in 2012, after he had a scare over his Sunday tee-time....

In today's look back through sporting history, it's the 2012 Ryder Cup and Europe's stunning comeback: The Miracle at Medinah.

Rory McIlroy arrived as the World No.1 following three wins, including a second Major title, in his last five starts, and Europe's side boasted four of the world's top five in the Northern Ireland ace, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose as they targeted a fifth win in six contests.

Westwood labelled US captain Davis Love's decision to opt for an easy course set-up with no rough as "weird" after he and Donald shot a better-ball score of 59 in practice.

Day One, advantage USA

The morning foursomes ended all square, but the home side won the afternoon fourballs 3-1. Europe's only win in the fourballs came from Westwood and sole rookie Nicolas Colsaerts, who made eight birdies and an eagle in a last-hole victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. "Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I've ever seen," Woods said after a second defeat of the day.

Day Two, more of the same

Woods was left out of a session for the first time in his career and it proved a good decision as the Americans won three of the morning foursomes. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley made it three wins out of three by thrashing Westwood and Colsaerts 7&6, but were surprisingly rested for the fourballs.

It did not look like it would matter as the USA won the first two fourballs to take a commanding 10-4 advantage, but Europe's big guns had other ideas.

From four up at the turn, Donald and Sergio Garcia were pegged back to one up with two to play by Stricker and Woods, who hit a superb tee shot to five feet on the 17th only for Donald to hit it even closer for a matching birdie. Stricker missed from seven feet for birdie on the last and the comeback was under way.

The postman delivers

While the contribution of Donald and Garcia is often overlooked, what happened next has lived long in the memory. Two down with six to play against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, McIlroy started the fightback with a birdie on the 13th but then was largely a delighted spectator as partner Ian Poulter reeled off five straight birdies to seal victory on the 18th.

"We have a pulse," Poulter told his team-mates with a 10-6 deficit.

Where's Rory?

Needing to match the biggest final-day comeback in the event's history, Jose Maria Olazabal top-loaded his singles line-up but as play got under way it began to dawn that someone was missing as McIlroy had seemingly been confused about his tee time due to the difference in Eastern Standard Time and Central Time.

"I was just casually strolling out of my hotel room when I got a phone call saying you have 25 minutes," McIlroy recalled. "I have never been so worried driving to the course. Luckily a State Trooper gave me the escort, if not I would not have made it on time."

McIlroy made it with a few minutes to spare and went on to beat Bradley 2&1 as Europe won the first five matches.

After further wins for Garcia and Westwood, Europe required one more point to retain the trophy. Step forward Germany's Martin Kaymer, who was gifted the lead when Stricker three-putted the 17th, but then needlessly hit a birdie putt on the last seven feet past.

With the Ryder Cup on the line, Kaymer held his nerve to hole the putt and spark wild celebrations, and tears also as Olazabal was overcome by memories of former partner Ballesteros. A generous concession from Woods on the 18th ensured a halved match with Francesco Molinari and outright victory for Europe.

Legacy

AFTER the Olympic Games in London, Bradley Wiggins' victory in the Tour de France and Andy Murray's first Major at the US Open, the Miracle of Medinah rounded off an unprecedented summer of sporting achievement.

However, the biggest legacy was a personal one. In 2017, McIlroy married Erica Stoll, one of the PGA of America officials who noticed he had not left the team hotel on the Sunday and helped arrange his frantic dash to the course.

Belfast Telegraph