At the conclusion of a riveting day of Ryder Cup competition on Saturday, during which Europe moved within four points of reclaiming the trophy, Rory McIlroy was involved in heated discussions with several players.
On the 18th hole, the Northern Irishman had an altercation with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie. Later, in the parking lot, teammate Shane Lowry escorted the Northern Irishman away from an ugly-looking scenario.
McIlroy became irritated with Joe LaCava because of the way that LaCava celebrated Cantlay’s birdie putt from 30 feet, and the argument continued behind the scenes.
While the Northern Irishman was trying to line up his own putt, LaCava was standing near by and waving his hat in the air. McIlroy was focused on lining up his own putt.
Luke Donald, the captain of Europe, saw the unfolding of events from the side of the green and then commented, “I’ve talked to Rory. He addressed Joe with courtesy and asked him to step aside. He was in the line of sight that he had. I believe that Rory was perturbed by the fact that he continued to wave the hat even after he had been standing there for some time without moving.
Zach Johnson, the skipper of the United States team, remarked, “A celebration is a celebration. I believe you have every right to celebrate with your team after making such a significant putt on hole 18 in the Ryder Cup, and that is exactly what I saw happen.
Indignant golfers Justin Rose and Lowry went up to LaCava on the green to confront him about the incident.
It was a disappointing conclusion to what had otherwise been an amazing day of golf in Rome.
The hosts have a lead of 1012-512 heading into Sunday’s 12 singles matches, and no team has ever come back from a five-point deficit to win the competition in its 96-year existence. A deficit of 10-6 has been turned around twice, once by the United States at Brookline in 1999 and again by Europe at Medinah in 2012.
Europe must earn 1412 points in order to win back the trophy, while the United States must earn 14 in order to defend their title as champions.
The home team had been in command throughout the morning’s alternate-shot foursomes, winning 3-1 to push their advantage all the way up to 912-212.
Cantlay, however, won the last two holes against McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick with birdies to eke out a point for the United States, which ultimately led to their 3-1 victory in the final session.
The antics that took place on the final green drew jeers from the thousands of fans that were gathered around the hole.
Both McIlroy and Fitzpatrick subsequently missed opportunities to make birdies, which would have resulted in the match at Marco Simone Golf Club being tied at halftime.
When speaking to the media, the number two player in the world was gracious and said the following: “Patrick made three great putts at the end to seal the deal, so hats off to them.” They put on a fantastic performance, and sure, I mean, there were a few scenes on 18, and that was just fuel for the fire.”
Soon later, video footage surfaced showing a still-agitated McIlroy, with Lowry steering his European team-mate away from another fight.
Cantlay’s fellow American players celebrated his final birdie by waving their caps in the air, making a joke on the fact that he had not been seen wearing a cap at any point during the tournament.
It is believed that he is refusing to do so because he would not be compensated for his participation in the biennial competition, and the spectators had been waving caps in Cantlay’s direction all throughout the afternoon session.
Nevertheless, he addressed that issue during his post-round news conference, where he stated, “it just doesn’t fit, it’s as simple as that.”
And when asked whether it was about being paid to participate in the Ryder Cup, he responded, “No, it’s not about that. It all comes down to Team USA and how well they can represent our country.
Before this point in the match, Cantlay and his playing partner Wyndham Clark had never held the lead. Before Cantlay birdied the 11th hole, they were one stroke behind the fourth-place team. The American also made two more putts on the 16th and 17th holes and made both of them to send the match down to the 18th hole all square. He then won that hole with another birdie to take the match.
The winners of the top two matches were also the ones who took home the victory.
Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg were put together for the afternoon fourballs after dishing out a record 9&7 foursomes beating to world number one Scottie Scheffler and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka in the morning. Scheffler had tears in his eyes as he was driven away from the competition, and Koepka had won five majors in his career.
Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa cruised to a victory over the Europeans in the better-ball format, taking the match by a score of 4 and 3, handing the Europeans their first humiliating loss.
A birdie by Burns got the United States on the right track after they had not won the first hole in any of the previous 12 matches they had played in. He went on to win three more holes, which put them three holes up by the sixth, then Morikawa made two birdies and an eagle in four holes, which sent them six holes ahead with six holes left to play.
Aberg’s string of birdies kept the Europeans in the game, but after the Swede missed a putt from ten feet on the 15th hole, Burns tapped in the winning putt to give the United States just their second complete point.
In the second match, Max Homa and Brian Harman defeated Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Hojgaard by a score of 2 and 1. They were also never behind during the match.
After six holes, the United States was ahead by three strokes with to birdies by Homa, and Harman’s hole in one on the ninth hole pushed them even farther ahead.
Birdies on the 14th and 16th holes offered Hojgaard and Fleetwood reason for optimism, but they were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to build a late comeback.
The sole point that Europe earned in the afternoon was a first for rookie Bob MacIntyre, who was playing with seasoned Englishman Justin Rose for the second time at the time. Rose was Europe’s other player.
They were going up against the powerful fourball combination of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who were undefeated entering the match.
A close match was ultimately decided in Europe’s favor when the Scot made a critical birdie putt on the par-three 13th hole, which moved them two strokes ahead of their competitors. After that, Rose knocked in another at the following, and as a result, they emerged victorious 3&2.