A furious Rory McIlroy had to be bundled into a car after the battle for the Ryder Cup exploded last night.
Europe’s talisman and his teammates were left incensed when Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava celebrated in front of the Northern Irishman as he prepared for a crucial putt to save the final match of a tumultuous day.
And in astonishing scenes as tensions spilled over onto the car park, 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 before teammate Shane Lowry guided him to a waiting BMW 4×4.
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.
The first flashpoint was triggered on the 18th. Fans at a raucous Marco Simone had spent the round taunting Cantlay by waving their hats in the air after an earlier report claimed he was not wearing a cap as a form of protest against not being paid for competing in the tournament – something he later denied.
Rory McIlroy launched into a livid rant at someone while leaving Marco Simone Saturday
The Northern Irishman had argued with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava on 18
And when Cantlay sank a stunning 30-footer to put the US on the brink of winning his match with Wyndham Clark against McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick he responded by mimicking taking off a hat – while bag man LaCava joyously twirled his in McIlroy’s line of vision.
McIlroy made his feelings clear before LaCava went back to argue the point as McIlroy weighed up the key shot. 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.
Tempers appeared to cool but around 20 minutes later a video clip emerged of a further confrontation on the car park. McIlroy, still in his playing gear, could be seen angrily pointing his finger and shouting at someone off shot, believed to be LaCava.
Another US caddie, Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay appeared to be trying to ease the situation before a security guard attempted to step in. Irishman Lowry then intervened and led a still-seething McIlroy to the vehicle.
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.
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.
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.
The Americans waved their caps – a nod to European fans’ taunting over the hat controversy
LaCava joined in on the celebrations but did so near McIlroy’s line before he putted
McIlroy’s car park outburst comes after a tense exchange with LaCava on the final hole
Members of Team Europe took exception to LaCava’s celebrations and lack of etiquette
‘They played a great match, and… a few scenes there on 18 and just fuel for the fire tomorrow.’
‘I’ll talk with Rory when I get back,’ said Europe captain Luke Donald. ‘I didn’t see the incident (on the car park). I saw the one on 18. I think we always — 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.’
The Englishman confirmed the sportsmanship row had sparked the heated scenes.
‘Rory politely asked Joe to move aside,’ Donald said. ‘He was in his line. He stood there and didn’t move for a while and continued to wave his hat…So I think Rory was upset about that.’
Cantlay denied the report and claimed he did not wear a hat, including for the team photo, because it ‘just doesn’t fit’.
It was also alleged that Cantlay and close pal Xander Schauffele were sitting separately to their teammates in a fractured dressing room, something Cantlay and captain Zach Johnson strongly refuted.
Johnson defended LaCava. ‘I saw passion and all of what’s great in the Ryder Cup come out,’ he said. ‘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.’
Meanwhile, Spain’s Jon Rahm hit back at LIV rebel Brooks Koepka who on Friday had accused him of acting like a child after he sank a 25-foot putt for an eagle to tie their fourball on the last.
‘Whatever he says, it shouldn’t change the way I approach this tournament,’ Rahm said. ‘That’s it. I’m here to do my job and whatever comments anybody else may have shouldn’t really change the way I go about it or what I think of myself.’
Shane Lowry could be seen exchanging word with the legendary caddie on the green
On the broadcast, it was said McIlroy took issue with LaCava celebrating near his line
McIlroy and Fitzpatrick had seen a vital point slip away as Cantlay rescued the Americans’ hope in the match, going birdie-birdie to finish and win the third clash of the afternoon for the US.
Team USA had desperately needed a resurgence after Europe dominated the opening three sessions. However, Johnson’s men in red, white and blue salvaged their dignity Saturday afternoon to claw the deficit to five points heading into Sunday’s showdown.
It sets up an enthralling final day of singles in which Europe remain strong favorites after the Americans answered an early surge to win the afternoon fourballs 3-1. However, no side has come from five back to win in the tournament’s 96-year history.
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.