GUIDONIA MONTCELIO, Italy – A war of words on the final green Saturday at the Ryder Cup spilled into the parking lot, where Rory McIlroy and caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay had to be separated before leaving Marco Simone.
Tensions flared late on the 18th green, where Patrick Cantlay, who had been razzed by fans for his decision not to wear a team hat this week, poured in a 43-footer for birdie. That prompted American players and caddies, including Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava, to take off their hats and whirl them around their heads – a mock celebration of what fans had been doing to Cantlay around every tee and green.
LaCava continued to celebrate even as McIlroy lined up his putt to tie. Believing that it had carried on too long, and that LaCava was too close to McIlroy, McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, shouted at LaCava to back up. That led LaCava to dismissively wave off Diamond, sparking a few more words from the European side, including Shane Lowry.
“I was too busy letting out all the emotion that built up over the day,” Cantlay said later. “I didn’t get a good look at it.”
Both team captains surrounded the green during the pivotal match.
“We’re all competitors. We all want to win, but we want to do it in the right way,” European captain Luke Donald said. “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.”
After both McIlroy and partner Matt Fitzpatrick missed their putts to tie, Cantlay’s closing birdie proved the winning point for U.S., trimming its Day 2 deficit to five points, 10.5 to 5.5. Afterward, LaCava walked over to the entire European side in an attempt to clear the air. McIlroy appeared to understand LaCava’s perspective, patting him a few times on the shoulder.
LaCava told Johnson afterward that the situation was “defused” with McIlroy.
“They played a great match,” McIlroy told a pool reporter, “and, I mean, a few scenes there on 18 and just fuel for the fire tomorrow.”
Less than a half-hour later, however, cameras spotted McIlroy in a fiery conversation with Mackay, who wasn’t directly involved in the incident on the final green.
McIlroy pointed at Mackay and was heard screaming, “That can’t happen! That can’t f—ing happen! That’s a f—ing disgrace!”
Held back by Lowry and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, McIlroy was then led into his courtesy car and driven away.
Lowry and Mackay then exchanged words for about 10 seconds before parting ways.
McIlroy’s agent confirmed the incident stemmed from what occurred on the 18th green.
It was an explosive end to a tension-filled day at Marco Simone, where the Americans appeared on the verge of a historic deficit before a comeback in the afternoon fourballs session. The U.S. won the session, 3-1, and now will head into Sunday singles down five points to the home team.
The largest deficit ever overcome in Ryder Cup history is four points, accomplished most recently in 2012.
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