Time traveler: Recounting McIlroy's time-zone misadventure in '12 Ryder Cup

By Jason SobelSeptember 20, 2014, 1:05 pm

10:54 a.m. CT

There have already been a few missed calls to his phone on this morning of Sept. 30, 2012, but Rory McIlroy doesn’t think much of them until the knock on the door.

Already preparing for a Ryder Cup tee time that he believes is an hour and a half away, he is neither ruffled nor rushed. His mindset, he says later, is wholly on winning a full point against Keegan Bradley and helping Europe climb out of the 10-6 hole it had dug over the first two days.

On Saturday afternoon, he had been reduced to merely a dazzled onlooker as teammate Ian Poulter birdied the final five holes to win their fourballs match. Before leaving the course a little while afterward, he checked his Sunday tee time: 12:25 p.m., it read. Plenty of time to sleep in before he needed to get to Medinah Country Club.

Until that knock on the door.

“It's one of the girls from the European Tour,” he recalls two years later. “They're like, ‘You need to go. You're going to miss your tee time.’ I was panicked.  I was sort of half-dressed. I was just getting ready. They're like, ‘Look, we'll take care of everything else. We'll take your suit for the closing ceremony. We'll get all that stuff sorted. But there's a police car waiting for you downstairs. You need to get in that and go.’”

Photos: 2012 Ryder Cup final day

That 12:25 p.m. tee time? It was listed in Eastern Time. But Chicago, of course, is located in the Central Time Zone. He has about 30 minutes to make his tee time.

10:58 a.m. CT

Fully dressed and fully panicked, McIlroy walks out of the lobby of his hotel and directly into the squad car of Chicago Police officer Pat Rollins.

Had he wanted to, had he chosen the route of American hero and rationalized that the department motto of “We Serve and Protect” didn’t apply to Europeans who were late for their Ryder Cup tee times, Rollins could have elected to let McIlroy fend for himself. Chances are, with traffic, he never would have made it.

Instead, Rollins welcomes the golfer into his squad car and blares the sirens. The usual 25-minute trip to Medinah takes only 15.

“I would have done the same thing for an American player,” the officer would later say. “We were their hosts; they stayed in our community. The Ryder Cup was to be played on the course, not on the road.”

11:13 a.m. CT

By now an incident of international proportions, cameras are rolling as McIlroy makes his long-awaited and much-curious arrival at the golf course.

He quickly thanks Rollins and begins thinking about the match – the match for which he had all morning to prepare and is now racing toward without any preparation.

“Once I got there and knew I was going to make it,” he explains, “I was just saying, ‘Let's try and keep it together for the first six holes, like keep it to all square or even just 1 down or something, but just try to keep it tight for the first six.’”

11:15 a.m. CT

Any casual golfer who has rushed from work to catch a quick nine holes before dark can sympathize with what happened next.

Ten minutes before one of the biggest tee times in his life, McIlroy is furiously changing his shoes in the locker room.

11:19 a.m. CT

Now six minutes before that time, he hits a few chips and rolls a few putts on the practice green.

“I tried to hit a couple of chips and a couple of putts to sort of calm myself down,” he says. “Didn't work.”

No time to hit any full shots on the driving range, no time to check out the pin sheet, no time to strategize his way around the course.

11:23 a.m. CT

After the most whirlwind half-hour of his life, McIlroy arrives at the first tee. His opponent, Bradley, asks if everything is all right, but McIlroy can barely hear him over the partisan crowd.

Word had gotten out. The story had been told. McIlroy’s explanation for showing up late is already making international headlines by the time he reaches this point.

The massive galleries surrounding Medinah’s first tee know all about it. And so when he finally, at the last minute, shows up with a sheepish smile in between huffs of relieved sighs, they serenade him with an appropriate chant.


11:25 a.m. CT

With his first full swing since Saturday afternoon’s fourballs match, McIlroy misses the fairway to the right.

Not optimal, but all things considered, it’s not awful, either.

11:36 a.m. CT

After missing the green, McIlroy nearly chips in for birdie.

His par is conceded and when Bradley matches that score, all the frayed nerves and anxiety of the morning begin to fade.

12:41 p.m. CT

Focusing on just keeping it close for the first six holes, McIlroy does much better.

A birdie on the sixth puts him 2 up early on – and more importantly, it keeps him from further embarrassment.

“After that, I was calmed down,” he recalls. “Able to get into some sort of rhythm. Then I was like, ‘Well, this is actually OK.’”

3:19 p.m. CT

Unpredictably, unexpectedly, McIlroy never trails in the match.

When Bradley misses his birdie attempt on the 17th hole, it’s over. The match is a 2-and-1 victory for McIlroy, one of five full points for Europe in the first five matches.

3:20 p.m. CT

Finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, McIlroy takes a bow.

“It was the best golf I played of the whole week,” he says now. “I shot 65 or 66. I was 6 under par for the match. I beat Keegan, who was arguably one of the best players for the U.S. team that week.”

He has not only absolved himself of infinite boneheadedness in sporting lore, he has helped put his team in position for an improbable comeback.

8:37 p.m. CT

Nearly 10 hours after McIlroy rushed from his hotel room to a patrol car to the course to the first tee, he attends a news conference with his victorious teammates, attempting to explain exactly what happened.

Some of them laugh. A few mutter well-intentioned needling under their breath. The team’s captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, just shakes his head in disbelief.

“In a way, it wasn't a bad thing because I didn't have time to think about it,” McIlroy says. “I still would have liked to have gotten here sooner, but I delivered my point for the team, and that was the most important thing.

“I was like, ‘Just get me there, get me there.’”

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)

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Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

“Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

“For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”

Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

“We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

“It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

“I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

“She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

“I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

“Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

“Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

“She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”