The Ryder Cup descended into a row over sportsmanship last night after American caddie Joe LaCava appeared to goad Rory McIlroy on the green by waving his cap in his eyeline ahead of a crucial putt, sparking a row which continued into the club’s car park.
McIlroy was annoyed that Patrick Cantlay’s caddie LaCava – who has 36 years of caddying experience – initially didn’t move out of the way, instead continuing to wave his cap over his head in celebration of Cantlay’s birdie on the last.
The Northern Irishman had reportedly asked LaCava, thought to be 68, ‘politely’ to move out the way, yet the caddie continued to ignore the request for some time.
Despite the row continuing into the car park and ending when McIlroy was bundled into a car by a teammate, LaCava appeared calm and collected as he accompanied Patrick back out onto the course on Sunday.
It came ahead of the final day of the Cup on Sunday, with Luke Donald’s European side now having plenty of extra motivation after the angry scenes on the 18th green, which continued outside the clubhouse at Marco Simone.
Europe need just four points from the final day’s 12 singles matches to complete their revenge mission in Rome and regain the Ryder Cup. Scottie Scheffler of team USA hit the first shot of the day ahead of Europe’s Jon Rahm.
The Northern Irishman had argued with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava after he initially did not move out of the golfer’s eyeline
Rory McIlroy launched into a livid rant at someone while leaving Marco Simone Saturday
Ahead of the row, US player Cantlay converted a 43ft putt, with McIlroy still waiting to take his own shot.
Caddie Joe LaCava, who used to work alongside Tiger Woods, began his career in 1987 and saw Fred Couples take 12 PGA Tour victories. He is now one of the most well-known caddies in the world.
Now accompanying Cantlay, sports pundits criticised the experienced caddie after the row on the 18th green, which saw LaCava speaking in an irate manner to McIlroy after he was asked to move out of his way.
The European golfer had had a superb outing at the Cup this year, and was on the verge of winning his fourth successive point in an impressive display which helped set up the team to dominate play on Saturday.
After Cantlay converted his putt, the US team held exuberant celebrations, including waving their hats.
The waving of hats towards Cantlay has been a theme at this year’s Ryder Cup, initially said to be due to him refusing to wear a cap in protest at not being paid for the tournament. He has since denied this is the case.
McIlroy and team-mate Matt Fitzpatrick still had birdie putts of their own to halve the hole and the match, but neither was able to convert.
LaCava appeared to linger on the green in front of McIlroy while waving his hat, instead of moving out of the way once his player had taken the shot. Footage of the incident then showed him making animated hand gestures and appearing to shout at the European.
Both Lowry and Justin Rose, who had gathered to watch, also spoke to LaCava and – when subsequently McIlroy and Fitzpatrick missed their shots – made their way onto the green to reinforce the point as the row continued up the tunnel to the clubhouse.
LaCava appeared calm and collected as he headed out onto the course on Sunday morning
Team USA’s Patrick Cantlay and his caddie, Joe LaCava walk across the chipping green ahead of tee off
McIlroy’s car park outburst comes after a tense exchange with LaCava on the final hole
McIlroy was swiftly bundled into a car by teammate Shane Lowry ahead of the final day of play on Sunday
The caddie (left) took a long time to move out of the way
The row began on the 18th green but continued up the tunnel and in the club’s car park
The Americans waved their caps – a nod to European fans’ taunting over the hat controversy
Team captain Donald said: ‘I talked to Rory. He politely asked Joe to move aside. He was in his line of vision.
Who is playing who on the final day of the Ryder Cup?
Sunday’s matches will take place as follows (timings are approximate and are in CET)
11:35 Jon RAHM v Scottie SCHEFFLER
11:47 Viktor HOVLAND v Collin MORIKAWA
11:59 Justin ROSE v Patrick CANTLAY
12:11 Rory MCILROY v Sam BURNS
12:23 Matt FITZPATRICK v Max HOMA
12:35 Tyrrell HATTON v Brian HARMAN
12:47 Ludvig ÅBERG v Brooks KOEPKA
12:59 Sepp STRAKA v Justin THOMAS
13:11 Nicolai HØJGAARD v Xander SCHAUFFELE
13:23 Shane LOWRY v Jordan SPIETH
13:35 Tommy FLEETWOOD v Rickie FOWLER
13:47 Robert MACINTYRE v Wyndham CLARK
Captains: Europe is led by Luke Donald, while the US is headed up by Zach Johnson
‘He stood there and didn’t move for a while and continued to wave the hat, so I think Rory was upset about that.
‘The Ryder Cup is always passionate. We’ve seen that many times over the past. I will address all 12 of my guys. I’ll give them the right messaging and they will be ready to play.’
He added: ‘We’re all competitors. We all want to win but we want to do it in the right way.
‘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. So Rory got upset and I understand that.’
Video footage of the incident showed LaCava appearing to continue loitering around McIlroy as he made large hand gestures and shouted across to other team members.
The row continued into the carpark, where McIlroy was seen jabbing fingers and making his feelings clear towards the Americans over what many have called unsportsman-like behaviour from LaCava.
In astonishing scenes a raging McIlroy could be heard shouting ‘This can’t happen, this can’t happen – it’s a f*****g disgrace,’ with a security guard forced to step in.
As feelings appeared to become increasingly heightened, McIlroy’s teammate Shane Lowry pulled the player back and bundled him into a car.
It had been reported that Cantlay was refusing to wear a cap in protest of players not being paid to play the Ryder Cup, which garnered mocking from the European fans who waved their caps at him, sang and chanted at him in jest.
Cantlay denied the report and claimed he did not wear a hat, including for the team photo, because it ‘just doesn’t fit’.
But the Americans, including the wives and caddies, flipped the Europeans’ taunting back on them with their celebration of Cantlay’s birdie, including LaCava’s joy, which sparked the heated scenes on 18.
On Sunday all American players are expected to ditch their hats in a show of solidarity.
Cantlay was asked about the row after the match but gave little information.
‘He is the best,’ he said of LaCava. ‘That is all there is to say.’
Many on social media disagreed, however, with fans from across the world branding the incident as ’embarassing’ and a ‘bad misjudgment’ by LaCava.
It wasn’t the only row to erupt from Saturday’s play, as US player Justin Thomas appeared to kick his own ball – and then not say anything about it.
The American’s ball had landed in long grass on the sixth hole, but as he attempted to clear it back onto the green, his shot only managed to move it a couple of feet to the right.
Members of Team Europe took exception to LaCava’s celebrations and lack of etiquette
McIlroy will take to the green again on Sunday, heading out fourth on the final day of play
As it moved, Thomas appeared to nudge it accidentally with his foot in a moment which fans were quick to notice and comment on online.
There is no penalty if a player accidentally kicks the ball while it is still in motion – but it is expected that they inform the referee.
The 30-year-old former World Number One was captured on camera alongside partner Jordan Spieth.
Thomas tried to smash it out of the grasses with his club but mis-hits the ball sending it sideways before he appears to step on it, knocking it a bit further away.
Rules state that players can be penalised if they strike the ball with their body, although this is waived if the ball is still moving and it was an accident.
It is not clear if Thomas alerted a referee to the bungle, but so far the tournament has already been particularly bad-tempered.
Following the 18th-green altercation, McIlroy appeared to address the confrontation, claiming it would only spur on Europe in the Sunday singles.
‘Matt and I played well. Obviously they had a great finish and Patrick made three great putts at the end to seal the deal, so hats off to them,’ said McIlroy, who had won his previous three matches in Rome.
‘They played a great match, and… a few scenes there on 18 and just fuel for the fire tomorrow.’
Europe looks set to take a huge win over the Americans, as no side has come from five back to win in the tournament’s 96-year history.
Play will tee off on Sunday at 11.35am CET, with each of the matches beginning around 12 minutes after the previous one.
With McIlroy scheduled to go out fourth, he is expected to begin play at around 11.11am UK time.
Crowds were extremely loud ahead of tee off in Rome, with chants from both sets of fans.
A rout had appeared to be on the cards after another blistering morning left the hosts with a commanding scoreline of 9.5-2.5. Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg delivered the biggest winning margin (9&7) in tournament history to leave the US staring obliteration in the face, and left a defeated Scottie Scheffler dabbing at his eyes.
Europe head into the final day needing four points to regain the trophy with a lead of 10.5-5.5 following a late US comeback but a rollercoaster day of golf was overshadowed by extraordinary scenes as the sun set.
After the round of four yesterday, in which players headed out two by two, the singles take place today with each player having their own tee off against one of the opposing team.
Donald unsurprisingly sent out his strongest players early in the singles, with Jon Rahm first out against Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland taking on Collin Morikawa and Justin Rose drawn against Cantlay in match three.
McIlroy, who had gone out first in the last three Ryder Cups, was fourth in the line-up against Sam Burns.
At the last Ryder Cup in Wisconsin in 2021, the US took a record-breaking win over the Europeans at 19-9.
The Americans have considerable work to do if they want to break 30 years of losing when playing outside of their country.
Former European captain Paul McGinley believes the United States need to eclipse the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ to retain the Ryder Cup in Rome.
Europe famously recovered from 10-6 down heading into the singles in 2012 to pull off an unlikely victory, but Zach Johnson’s side trail by five points at Marco Simone despite a spirited fightback on Saturday afternoon.
‘This will be unbelievable if America come anywhere close,’ McGinley, who led Europe to victory at Gleneagles in 2014, told Sky Sports.
‘Miracles do happen and this will be bigger than the Miracle at Medinah if America come back from here. Yes they have momentum, but Europe are also stoked up.’
The first match is expected to be compelling – Scottie Scheffler against Jon Rahm.
Not only have they traded places as No. 1 in the world this year, this is a rematch from two years ago at Whistling Straits. Scheffler birdied the opening four holes in a 4-and-3 victory.
Scheffler is the current No. 1 in the world. The last No. 1 player to lose in singles was Rahm two years ago.