Keep Your Friends Close...

U.S. Open 2024: How Rory McIlroy reportedly greeted Joe LaCava at the start of his final round at Pinehurst

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Patrick Smith

There’s no shortage of storylines to follow during the final round at Pinehurst. Can fan-favorite Bryson DeChambeau hold on to win his second U.S. Open despite a hip injury and last-second driver change? Can Matthieu Pavon become the first Frenchman to win a major since 1907? Father’s Day! False fronts! Pin positions! Oh my!

But there’s another fascinating sub-plot at play in the penultimate group of the day, where Rory McIlroy is paired with Patrick Cantlay and Cantlay's caddie [dun dun dun] Joey LaCava. As you almost certainly remember, McIlroy and LaCava had a fiery altercation at the 2023 Ryder Cup after the North Irishman felt LaCava impeded he and partner Matthew Fitzpatrick’s potentially match-halving putts on the 18th hole. After the round, McIlroy had to be physically restrained by teammate Shane Lowry as the pair’s disagreement escalated.

A few weeks later, McIlroy told the BBC that he and LaCava had buried the hatchet immediately following the Ryder Cup, saying they had “drink and chat” that Sunday night at Marco Simone and that he, Cantlay and LaCava were "all friends now.”

Sunday at Pinehurst was the first time that theory has really been tested, however, and according to CBS’ Kyle Porter, things got off on a (mostly) amicable foot.

Several photos of the greeting seem to confirm parts of Porter's account, including that all-important wink.

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Ross Kinnaird

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Jared C. Tilton

Back in November, McIlroy elaborated on his feelings in an interview with the Irish Independent, calling his relationship with Cantlay “average at best” and saying that pair “don’t have a ton in common and see the world differently,” but it seems like everyone is on the best behavior at Pinehurst. Both McIlroy and Cantlay have bigger fish to fry, after all. A win for McIlroy would put his long quest for a fifth major to rest, while Cantlay would clinch not only his first major, but automatic qualification spots for the Paris Olympics and U.S. Presidents Cup team. Should things come down to McIlroy and Cantlay on Sunday, however, keep a close eye on LaCava. With the U.S. Open on the line and tensions running high, we might just see a repeat of Rome.