Instead the world number one, given a police escort from the team hotel after believing he was teeing off an hour later on the final day than he actually was, was able to celebrate arguably the greatest ever victory in the history of an event that has served up one pulsating contest after another in recent years.
"I don't want to imagine what it would have been like if we'd lost by a point and I'm glad that I'm not - but of course it crossed my mind," McIlroy told Press Association Sport as the magnitude of Europe's recovery from 10-4 down to win 14 1/2-13 1/2 began to sink in.
"The abuse that you guys would have given me in the papers, but I'm just glad I got here, I won my point for the team and we ended up winning."
The 23-year-old then gave a blow-by-blow account of his pre-round drama.
"I woke up at nine to call Caroline (girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki) in Beijing and after that I was just hanging around.
"For some reason I had it in my head I was playing at 12.25 instead of 11.25. I read the tee times on my phone - they are obviously on Eastern time and it's Central time here.
"I got a couple of missed calls from a funny number about half 10 and was thinking 'who's that?', so I didn't answer. Then I got a call from Conor Ridge, my manager, at 11 asking if I was at the golf course yet."
Their conversation went like this:
McIlroy - "No, I'm not".
Ridge - "You're teeing off in 25 minutes".
McIlroy - "No I'm not, I'm teeing off in an hour and 25".
Ridge - "No, you're not. You're taking the piss, you're at the golf course".
McIlroy - "I am NOT at the golf course".
Ridge - "Well, you'd better get there".
The Northern Irish superstar, due to play unbeaten Keegan Bradley in the third game, admitted he instantly realised the consequences of not making it in time - five minutes late and he would have been disqualified, handing America the first point of the day and a five-point lead.
"I was just lucky there was a State Trooper downstairs who could take me, get his lights on and pass all the traffic," he said.
"Once we got off the highway it would have taken 10 minutes without him to get through that junction.
"I've never been so worried going to a golf course. I got to the course at 11.14, so I had 11 minutes to get ready and had just enough time to put my shoes on, have a couple of putts and go to the first tee.
"In a way it wasn't a bad thing because I didn't have time to think about it - and I played probably the best I played all week.
"Once I got out on the course I calmed down a bit. Keegan asked if everything was okay and I said 'it's fine' - we had a laugh."
Winning 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie, commentating on television, was not so amused.
"That is absolutely ridiculous at this level," he said. "It's quite unbelievable for the world number one golfer. How this happened I do not know - where is the captain, where are the vice-captains, where is his caddie?"
A 2&1 victory and the match result enabled McIlroy to joke about it, however.
By then Luke Donald and Paul Lawrie had already beaten Masters champion Bubba Watson and £7million FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker respectively.
When wild card Ian Poulter, with a stunning four wins out of four in the match, and Justin Rose triumphed on the last against US Open champion Webb Simpson and Phil Mickelson - Rose with closing birdie putts of 40 and 14 feet - Europe had captured the top five singles.
Lee Westwood then beat Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia pounced on a bogey-bogey finish from Jim Furyk to put Europe 14-13 up.
As holders they needed one more point to retain the trophy on a tie and Martin Kaymer, left out of three of the first four sessions, rose to the occasion by holing a six-foot putt to beat Steve Stricker.
Cue wild celebrations and as they went on winless Tiger Woods, put out last by Davis Love and finding himself inconsequential just like 2002, conceded a putt to Francesco Molinari that put the icing on Europe's cake - a fifth win in six matches.
Nobody on Olazabal's side had any doubt what the key moment of the week was, though. It was Poulter's five closing birdies late on Saturday that brought their deficit down to 10-6.
It was the same position America had been in at Brookline in 1999 and they pulled it off, so Europe knew it was possible.
"Ian gave us the lift we needed," McIlroy added. "Ian was the catalyst for this whole thing - he was phenomenal. I was playing with him, but just sort of stood and watched.
"I know all the boys put their heart and soul into this. It's unbelievable - I know the Americans did it in '99, but that was on home turf and to do it to them here is just incredible.
"To win as an individual is great, but when it's part of a team it doesn't get better than that.
"To share this moment and to know they gave everything like you have and to walk away as the victors is great."
So where did it rate in a year that has seen him win his second major by eight shots, win four times, top the world rankings and almost scoop the £7million jackpot at the FedEx Cup?
"It's one of the highlights," he said. "It's hard to single it out because there have been so many great moments this year, but I think it puts a cap on a great season for me personally.
"I couldn't have asked for the last couple of months to go any better. It would have been nice to come here with a nice big cheque, but it's just a wonderful way to cap off what's been a wonderful season."
And as for the nail-biting finish, McIlroy said as Kaymer lined up his putt: "I could barely look".
Later, the world number one spoke of his gratitude towards Pat Rollins, the state trooper and a picture on his Twitter account showed he had taken the chance to say thank you in person.
Alongside the words "me with my chauffeur who drove me to the course yesterday!! #betterlatethannever", is a picture of McIlroy with his arm around the policeman.
Rollins has received some ribbing for his contribution towards the United States' defeat.
He told the Daily Mirror: "They jokingly said if I hadn't, the USA would have won the Ryder Cup.
"But the Ryder Cup should be settled on the course, not in traffic.
"We would have done the same for any American or European player, though I must admit it was extra special that he is the world number one.
"I'm a big golf fan and I knew who he was. It was a great event, an exciting event.
"I'm just glad I could play my small part."