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In 2012, Rory McIlroy had his most embarrassing moment as a professional golfer when he nearly missed his final-round Ryder Cup tee time. The 18-time PGA Tour winner misread the Sunday schedule, and he needed a police escort to make his singles-session tee time against American Keegan Bradley.

Although that humiliating moment almost cost the European team the Ryder Cup trophy, it turned out to be the best mistake McIlroy ever made. He went on to win his match against Bradley, Europe came back to win the Ryder Cup, and McIlroy met his wife, Erica Stoll, in the process.

Rory McIlroy’s most embarrassing golf moment

Rory McIlroy has been married to his wife, Erica Stoll, for four years, but he never would've met her if for a time mixup in 2012.
Rory McIlroy and his wife, Erica Stoll, pose during the 2016 Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony at Hazeltine National Golf Club | Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Heading into the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup, the Americans held a comfortable 10-6 lead over the Europeans. They needed just 4.5 points during the singles session to steal the cup back from Europe.

McIlroy stared down a must-win singles matchup against Bradley on Sunday morning. He was getting ready for the round in his hotel room 11 miles away from Medinah when he heard a loud banging on the door. That’s when a lieutenant and a European Tour representative barged into the room and informed him he had 30 minutes until his tee time.

McIlroy had no idea. He had confused Eastern time and Central time, and he was in no particular rush to get to the course. That changed in an instant.

“I was panicking, I really was,” McIlroy told the New York Times in 2014. “Because it wasn’t just me that was going to have the disappointment of showing up late, it was 11 other guys on the team and the captain and the vice captains. So it was a pretty scary moment.”

McIlroy suddenly had a half hour to get ready and make the 20-minute drive to the course in time for his singles match.

McIlroy met his wife on the stressful drive to the course

Once McIlroy was located, the PGA Tour sent a driver and a police escort to the hotel to get him to Medinah on time. The driver of the emergency ride? McIlroy’s eventual wife, Erica Stoll.

The two shared a stress-filled chat on the way to the course, and a few months later, they started dating. Oh, and McIlroy went on to win his match against Bradley to propel the Europeans to a comeback victory in the Ryder Cup. What could’ve been the worst day of his life turned out to be the best.

“Erica that week was always the one that was checking us in and out. She was there at transportation, so she was always in the car park [by the clubhouse],” McIlroy reminisced to reporters ahead of the BMW Championship in 2019. “But yeah, it’s still cool to look around and think about that week, and obviously everything that’s happened since then. It’s pretty cool.”

Rory McIlroy and his wife, Erica Stoll, have been married since 2017

It didn’t take long for McIlroy and Stoll to strike up a relationship after his near blunder at the 2012 Ryder Cup, and four years later, they tied the knot. In August 2020, the married couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Poppy.

Stoll met McIlroy at his absolute worst, but that seemingly romantic car ride led to a fruitful relationship for years to come.


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