By Ben Spencer
Europe's Ryder Cup team achieved one of the greatest comebacks in golfing history last night despite hero Rory McIlroy nearly being disqualified for missing the tee off.
The team beat the US 14.5 to 13.5 with McIlroy putting in an extraordinary performance after being driven to the Chicago course by an unmarked police car.
He arrived just 11 minutes before the match started.
Record comeback: Rory McIlroy (front right) joins in the celebrations after Martin Kaymer (hands aloft) holes the putt that retains the Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club in Chicago
Irish elation: McIlroy has even more to shout about as he was very nearly disqualified for missing his tee-off time. He arrived with just 11 minutes to spare only thanks to a police escort
He beat his individual opponent Keegan Bradley as the European team came back after trailing by a seemingly hopeless four points overnight.
McIlroy had failed to arrive as expected for the start of the final day, and his European teammates had started to worry.
Two minutes late and he would forfeit the opening hole, five minutes late and he faced disqualification.
But with just 11 minutes to go he was driven into the parking lot in an unmarked police car.
Cutting it fine: McIlroy, pictured here after winning his match against Keegan Bradley, had failed to arrive as expected for the start of the final day and his European teammates had started to worry
Could have been decisive: If McIlroy had arrived two minutes late, he would have forfeited the opening hole, while five minutes late and he would have faced disqualification
He ran across to the practice putting green and then proceeded to put in an incredible first nine holes.
McIlroy, who is dating tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, revealed it was his phone, rather than television coverage, that was to blame for his late arrival.
‘I read the tee times on my phone, and they are obviously on Eastern time and it’s Central time here,’ he added.
He joked: ‘At least I wasn’t in the back (of the police car). We got here as fast as we could.’
By his side: McIlroy, pictured with his girlfriend, the Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, revealed it was his phone that was to blame for his arrival as it was showing Eastern time rather than Central time
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal admitted his heart was ‘racing quicker than expected’ when his man failed to show.
‘We did not have that in mind,’ he said. ‘All of a sudden we realised Rory was not here and started to look for him. Finally we got hold of him and he came in with a police escort with ten or 11 minutes to go.’
McIlroy added: ‘I was casually walking around the hotel when I got a call and I was told I had 25 minutes to get to the course. Luckily there was a state trooper outside.’
There had been plenty of drama on the course already, with Luke Donald and Bubba Watson both making birdies on the first hole before Donald went two ahead with a par on the second and a birdie on the fourth.
Making history: Europe turned over a 10-6 deficit to retain the Ryder Cup
Nerves of steel: Poulter continued his fine form to see off Webb Simpson
Ian Poulter, Europe’s undoubted star this week with three wins out of three, then chipped in for a birdie on the first in his match with Webb Simpson, only for the US Open champion to match him with a 15ft effort for a half.
Poulter then bogeyed the second and fourth to fall two behind, but McIlroy had sufficiently caught his breath to win the fourth hole with a conceded birdie to take the lead over Bradley.
And Justin Rose won the first two holes against Phil Mickelson, the first with a birdie and the second when Mickelson found water off the tee on the second.
As holders, Europe, who started the final day trailing 10-6, only needed to tie the match to retain the Cup they won in Wales two years ago. In 1999, the US team achieved a similarly sensational comeback by turning around a four-point overnight deficit.
Coming up Rose's: Justin Rose won the last two holes to win a thriller against Mickelson
Making amends: Westwood bounced back from a shaky first two days to beat Kuchar