GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Rory McIlroy lost his match at the Ryder Cup. Then he lost his cool.
In scenes sure to stoke tensions ahead of Sunday’s singles, McIlroy accused Patrick Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava, of waving his hat in his line of vision ahead of the European star’s crucial putt on the 18th green in the final fourballs match Saturday.
That incident prompted another angry exchange involving McIlroy as he left the Marco Simone club. McIlroy was seen to be visibly furious outside the clubhouse as Jim “Bones” Mackay, the caddie for Justin Thomas, attempted to intervene.
McIlroy was ushered into a waiting car by European teammate Shane Lowry, but only after plenty of shouting and finger-pointing. It wasn’t immediately clear who McIlroy was aiming his anger toward, but U.S. captain Zach Johnson said LaCava “was not a part of that.”
The images were soon all over social media and will no doubt be part of the pre-match team talks before the singles. The Europeans lead 10 1/2-5 1/2 and need four more points to reclaim the trophy they relinquished at Whistling Straits two years ago.
“Just fuel for the fire tomorrow,” McIlroy said.
LaCava — like others in the U.S. team — had removed his hat in a playful gesture after Cantlay holed a 45-foot birdie putt in near-darkness on No. 18. Throughout the afternoon, thousands of European fans waved their caps at Cantlay, likely in response to a report on Sky Sports claiming that he refused to wear his cap out of protest because he wants to be paid for his participation.
European captain Luke Donald said McIlroy “politely asked Joe to move aside.” McIlroy still had a putt for birdie to tie the match, which he wound up missing.
“He (LaCava) stood there and didn’t move for a while and continued to wave the hat, so I think Rory was upset about that,” Donald said.
Donald said Europe’s players were competitors and they wanted to win “in the right way.”
“From what Rory told me, he did ask Joe to move,” Donald added. “He took a long time to move. It was a little off-putting because he still had to putt.”
For Johnson, the matter was “defused” after the match — a take which doesn’t tally with McIlroy’s conduct outside the clubhouse.
“I’m told it’s all good,” Johnson said.
Donald said he would be speaking to McIlroy later.
“Obviously Rory felt like the line was crossed on the 18th green,” Donald said. “Again, I will address it with him when I see him.”
Cantlay birdied the final three holes to earn a 1-up win with Wyndham Clark against McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick.
McIlroy had won his first three matches at this Ryder Cup. He has never won four points in golf’s biggest spectacle and can still do that if he beats Sam Burns in the singles.
McIlroy goes out in the fourth match, straight after Cantlay against Justin Rose.