Rory McIlroy’s next interaction with Patrick Cantlay promises to be interesting after the world No 2 branded the American “a d—” in the ongoing fallout from the Ryder Cup.
It has been almost two months since Europe beat Team USA in Rome, but the unseemly row continues to raise tensions. Certainly, McIlroy’s comments in an interview with the Irish Independent concerning his flare-up with caddie Joe LaCava will do nothing to instil calm.
“I start having a go at them,” McIlroy said, referring to his remonstration with Ricky Elliott [Brooks Koepka’s caddie] and Claude Harmon [Koepka’s coach] at the team hotel.
“Joe LaCava used to be a nice guy when he was caddying for Tiger and now he’s caddying for that d— he’s turned into an a–. I still wasn’t in a great headspace.”
By that stage, Tiger Woods – at home in South Florida recovering from leg injuries – had tried to get in contact with McIlroy. The world No 2 did not pick up, instead messaging Woods.
“There was also three texts and two missed calls from Tiger, because they’ve obviously still close,” McIlroy said. “I sent him a quick message: ‘It will be fine – long day – just want to go to bed.’”
McIlroy refused to meet up with LaCava before the Sunday singles, although Telegraph Sport revealed the pair did make their peace in the Europe team room on the Sunday night. However, they have yet to talk and it is doubtful they will ever break bread as friends.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, McIlroy sounds bitter at the scenario. It was triggered by a Sky Sports report, which claimed Cantlay did not wear a cap during the match in protest at golfers not being paid to appear in the Ryder Cup.
The crowd quickly got wind and started waving their hats at Cantlay, although the world No 5 was adamant the report was erroneous and that, at the time, he did not know why the galleries were twirling their caps and chanting “stand up for your bank account”.
On the last green Cantlay holed a long putt and his team-mates around the putting surface started waving their hats. LaCava did likewise, walking towards McIlroy as he lined up a putt that would have halved the match. This lit the fuse.
‘I felt this red mist coming over me’
“Here’s what angered me,” McIlroy said. “My relationship with Cantlay is average at best. We don’t have a ton in common and see the world quite differently.
“But when I saw he was getting stick on the 17th and 18th greens, I tried to quiet the crowd for him. And I don’t think Fitz [Matt Fitzpatrick, his partner] and I were afforded the same opportunity to try and hole those putts to halve the match.
“I shook Joe’s hand, and Patrick’s hand. Those three putts he made on 16, 17 and 18 were fantastic, and under that pressure, to give your team a glimmer of hope going into Sunday was big balls. So all respect to him.
“There was a bit of argy-bargy at the back of the 18th green with Fred Couples and Thomas Bjorn – and that’s fine – but as I’m walking back to the locker room I can feel this red mist coming over me. ‘No! That wasn’t right.’”
McIlroy went on to explain that only the intervention of team-mate and long-time friend Shane Lowry stopped him from going into the opponents’ team room to “sort this out”. But McIlroy was soon to lash out at Jim “Bones” Mackay, Justin Thomas’s caddie, who approached him in the car park.
“He’s coming over to try and diffuse the situation,” McIlroy said. “But he’s wearing an American top, and I know he’s friends with Joe, and I just tripped. Complete rage. I felt bad about it afterwards because Bones’s wife was standing beside him, and I used a lot of swear words. So not my finest moment. Then Shane bundled me into the car.”
McIlroy is playing in this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, having already sealed his fifth order of merit title. Nine of the European team are teeing it up at Jumeirah Golf Estates and even if the events in the Italian capital were bound to be a talking point, they definitely will now.
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