2023 Ryder Cup: Rory McIlroy restrained during heated argument with U.S. caddies amid hat wave drama


ROME — A blowout Ryder Cup rarely sees this much drama. Even with the Europeans leading 10.5 to 5.5 going into the Sunday singles session, Saturday evening was must-see TV, especially if you left your TV on after the golf finished up.

After the eight Saturday matches concluded, Rory McIlroy was caught on camera in the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club parking lot screaming at Justin Thomas’ caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay about … something. Presumably, his anger was over an incident that occurred about 30 minutes earlier on the 18th green involving Patrick Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava.

Cantlay made a 40-foot putt on the 18th for birdie, a shot that ultimately won the hole and the match with Cantlay & Wyndham Clark defeating McIlroy & Matt Fitzpatrick. After Cantlay’s putt dropped, the McIlroy & Fitzpatrick side still had putts to match; however, LaCava was in McIlroy’s way, waving his hat at the crowd in celebration.

Steve Sands of NBC originally reported that LaCava told him McIlroy was laughing about it with Shane Lowry the one angry over the incident. While LaCava and Lowry were certainly barking at one another, the video tells a different story.

LaCava did linger, and even beyond that, he continued to chirp at McIlroy even as one of the European stars was trying to make a match-tying putt. It’s a player-caddie interaction I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before.

It appeared as if tensions had calmed following some conversations between LaCava, Lowry and others on the 18th green.

This is how U.S. captain Zach Johnson relayed it in his press conference: “What I saw on 18 was a phenomenal putt and a celebration by some of our guys. I saw passion and all of what’s great in the Ryder Cup come out. And to my knowledge, based on what I was told, that was diffused after the match. And so, I’m told it’s all good. Yeah, that’s really all I know.”

When it came time to leave the course and head back to the team hotel, McIlroy was clearly still bothered by the incident or something tangental to it. Though he was presumably not upset with Mackay, the caddie took the brunt of his rant.

European captain Luke Donald was asked about all of this in his press conference as well. He never said outright that McIlroy was yelling about LaCava in the parking lot, but he did say that McIlroy was quite upset about what took place on the 18th green.

“Obviously, I was there on 18,” said Donald. “I saw it unfold when Patrick made that putt; Joe was waving his hat. Obviously, there was some hat waving going on throughout the day from the crowd for our players. Talked to Rory. He politely asked Joe to move aside. He was in his line of vision. He stood there and didn’t move for a while and continued to wave the hat, so I think Rory was upset about that.”

Getty Images

Getty Images

To say he was upset would be an understatement. Donald said he was not in the parking lot, did not know what happened and never said explicitly what McIlroy was yelling about, but the insinuation throughout was obvious.

“I’ll talk with Rory when I get back,” said Donald. “I didn’t see the incident personally. I saw the one on 18. As I said in my speech, we always try and play with passion, play with energy but play with respect. That will certainly be my message to the players.

“We’re all competitors. We all want to win, but we want to do it in the right way. You know, from what Rory told me, he did ask Joe to move. He took a long time to move. It was a little off-putting because he still had to putt. And so Rory got upset, and I understand that.”

So, why the long hat wave in the first place? 

Well, that happened because of a report from earlier in the day from Jamie Weir of Sky Sports that Cantlay was upset about not being paid for playing the Ryder Cup and decided not to wear a hat out of protest.

Two sources told CBS Sports that reports of a divide in the U.S. team room between Cantlay and anyone else were ridiculous. Cantlay confirmed that there was nothing to his decision not to wear a hat after the round, pointing out that the hats do not fit him and he did not wear one at Whistling Straits during the 2021 Ryder Cup, either.

“Not at all,” said Cantlay when he was asked if he went hatless out of protest. “This is the first I heard of it right when I got off the green. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. The hat doesn’t fit. It didn’t fit at Whistling Straits, and it didn’t fit this week. Everyone knows that.”

Still, all afternoon, Cantlay was serenaded by fans waving their hats at him amid the initial report. So, when he nailed the 40-footer on No. 18, Cantlay fake tipped his nonexistent hat at the crowd; most of his team took their hats off and waved them back at the fans, too, as did LaCava. 

That’s how all of this started, and it ended with McIlroy hollering in the parking lot. 

All of this is somewhat confusing but mostly amusing, and it gave a lopsided Ryder Cup some much-needed juice going into the Sunday singles matches. Partly because it gives the U.S. some momentum but also because it gives the Europeans a cause, a reason to cheer on a potential blowout.

Just when it looked like this Ryder Cup was going to be a bit of a snoozer, Sunday should once again be must-see TV.

Rick Gehman and Patrick McDonald break down all the action from Day 2 of the 2023 Ryder Cup. Rory McIlroy is heated, Patrick Cantlay’s hat and so much more! Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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