Rory McIlroy has opened up on his infamous Ryder Cup spat with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava and how Luke Donald helped use the incident to galvanize Team Europe heading into the Sunday singles in Rome.
In an interview with Paul Kimmage of the Irish Independent, both McIlroy and Shane Lowry reflect on the bust up on the 18th green on Saturday evening when LaCava took celebrations too far after Cantlay holed what eventually turned out to be a match winning putt.
Tensions spilled out into the car park afterwards with McIlroy, Lowry and Bones Mackay getting involved.
“Here’s what angered me,” McIlroy told Kimmage. “My relationship with Cantlay is average at best. We don’t have a ton in common and see the world quite differently.
Lowry added: I was like, ‘Rors, get into the f**king car, will ya?’ Then I went to Bones and said: ‘You can tell your mate’ — because him and Joe are quite close — ‘that’s the worst thing I’ve seen on the golf course.’
LaCava did offer McIlroy the chance to hold ‘clear the air’ talks prior to the Sunday singles but the four-time major winner refused and it appears there will be no love lost between himself, LaCava and Cantlay the next time they cross paths.
An out of love triangle.
“And they’re trying to defuse the situation, but I start having a go at them,” McIlroy said of the clubhouse incident.
“Joe LaCava used to be a nice guy when he was caddying for Tiger, and now he’s caddieing for that d*ck he’s turned into a …’ I still wasn’t in a great headspace.”
Unbeknownst to McIlroy, his eleven Ryder Cup teammates absolutely loved what transpired.
Jon Rahm said to Lowry: “Rory is some team-mate, isn’t he? He’s the best.”
“But I’d say the same about Rahmbo. Him and Rory are two of the best players in the world, but when they come into the team room at the Ryder Cup they’re just two of the lads. They leave their ego at the door,” explained Lowry.
After dealing with the necessary media duties, Luke Donald returned for the players meeting on Saturday night. McIlroy, expecting a deflated atmosphere given Europe had lost the session, and perhaps a rollicking off Donald was pleasantly surprised to see the team room reach fever pitch.
“I forget what time it was called but Luke wasn’t back yet,” explained McIlroy. “He was doing media and stuff at the course. So we’re sitting there for about five minutes — the 12 players and the vice-captains — and all the talk is the video [laughs]. Then Luke comes in and sits down and doesn’t acknowledge anyone. And he looks at me and I’m thinking, ‘I could be in trouble here,’ but he goes, “Rory! I f**king loved that!” And all the boys started banging the table. It was brilliant. It had been a really deflating finish but it galvanized the team.
“I went back to my room and there was a text from Joe LaCava: ‘Hey Rory, would love to meet up in the morning to clear the air.’ But I was tired and didn’t get back to him. There was also three texts and two missed calls from Tiger, because they’re obviously still close. I sent him a quick message: ‘It will be fine … long day … just want to go to bed.’
Donald came in for widespread praise in the aftermath of Europe’s victory for his performance as captain but he pulled a master stroke when selecting his singles lineup by putting McIlroy out fourth so he could avoid Cantlay and diffuse the situation.
The Holywood man went out fourth and beat Sam Burns.
“I thought it was a stroke of genius. Why? Because I usually play one or three, and if you look at where they placed Cantlay that’s probably what they expected, and it would stir the whole ‘Rory and LaCava’ thing again. Luke putting me at four was good tactics. He needed me to go out and just win a point, and it would be easier for me to win a point if I didn’t have that distraction.”