Rónán MacNamara in Rome
Did the Ryder Cup have its own Roy Keane vs Patrick Vieira tunnel moment?
Saturday night in Marco Simone was like any other night after a few pints in your local.
Shane Lowry about to storm onto the 18th green into a scrap with Joe LaCava before ironically acting as peacemaker between Rory McIlroy and Bones Mackay was a transition everyone is accustomed to seeing at approximately five past two in the morning outside the local chipper.
The bust up on the green that spilled over into the car park saw McIlroy take the role of Roy Keane in the Highbury tunnel and the similarity in mannerisms were uncanny.
Who would have thought it though. That Patrick Cantlay, one of the most mundane, lifeless and dislikable golfers would be the main protagonist for what was absolutely brilliant entertainment and sparked this Ryder Cup into life.
Cantlay’s heroics evoked memories of Ian Poulter in Medinah on Saturday night eleven years ago. Before weighing in on what was right and what was wrong about what happened on the 18th green, you must literally take your cap off to him for some outstanding golf to beat McIlroy who himself has been superb over the course of the two days. He went out and won that match on its own and injected a shot of adrenaline into a beleaguered US team who looked dead and buried.
USA would have been understandably buoyed when they returned to the sanctuary of their dressing room last night, perhaps in a similar tone to what the Europeans did eleven years ago as they look for a miracle of their own.
However, the scenes on the 18th green last night also helped Europe. It lit a fire under their arses and will only aid them in avoiding the complacency the United States showed in Chicago.
Luke Donald’s men returned to their dressing room as fired up as the USA and there’s nothing more dangerous in sport than an opponent going out with a feeling to put right a sense of injustice.
Some much needed spice has been added to this bland korma of a contest.
Specifically on the scenes on 18, Cantlay was well within his rights to give a little back to the European fans after being greeted with chants and sarcastically waved caps throughout the afternoon four ball session.
I have no problem with the USA players and caddies giving some back also by waving their caps, there was no malice in it. It was all good fun and fair play to them. Ryder Cups should stir emotion in players of both sides.
Good to see that the Americans apparently give a damn about the Ryder Cup, we waited two days but they finally arrived on the scene.
What Joe LaCava did however, was a step too far. Completely within his rights to take part in the cap waving on the green but when politely asked by McIlroy to take a few steps back before hitting his putt (which the replays support), LaCava lets himself down by going back at Rory for seconds.
It must be remembered that at this stage McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick are yet to putt to halve the hole in birdies, so the match was not over at this stage.
Then all hell breaks loose.
LaCava, someone who caddied for Tiger Woods and has a long history in the game should know better. He can’t get involved in player performance and his mistake was poor sportsmanship. He should not have allowed himself to get involved in the heat of the moment.
Fortunately for him, what happened next was pure box office entertainment.
Step forward Lowry who had to be physically restrained from storming onto the green to confront LaCava, Justin Rose gets involved, Bones throws his weight in and all of a sudden we have an iconic Ryder Cup moment.
What makes the Ryder Cup special is that we get these outbursts of passion and vitriol once every two years in a sport that rarely lends itself to that.
Rory McIlroy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, certainly in Ireland for various reasons but if you didn’t love his passion and anger in the car park then the Ryder Cup isn’t for you. In a sense, it was great to see the Irishness in him come out, something he is accused of lacking.
McIlroy has been cast in a leadership role this week and he went full Roy Keane, having to be restrained by teammates, pointing the finger in a remarkably similar way and shouting his mouth off. Unlike Highbury in 2005, we have been waiting patiently overnight for act two of this drama.
When everything simmered down, in the end, it had been another great day for Europe who had tied the day at 4-4 to take a commanding five point lead into the Sunday singles, needing just four points to win the Ryder Cup.
Heading into the singles, finally, a bit of needle has been injected into the contest and while the Americans should come out fired up, eager for a quick start, last night’s scenes will only help Europe regain their focus and rev themselves up to stamp on US necks with a dominant singles show.