Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup 2023: Europeans fume over caddie's hat waving, and bad blood is sure to spill over

September 30, 2023

Joe LaCava waves his hat to the crowd after Patrick Cantlay made a birdie putt on the 18th hole.

Richard Heathcote

ROME — The passion of the Ryder Cup spilled over late Saturday afternoon at Marco Simone into outright fury, ignited by the actions of American caddie Joe LaCava and ending—at least for now—with an irate Rory McIlroy pointing and screaming at some members of the U.S. contingent before being physically constrained and pushed into a courtesy car by fellow Irishman Shane Lowry.

This sleepy 44th Ryder Cup now is about as lit as any in history, and although Europe has a commanding 10½-5½ lead, there’s no telling what fireworks await for the final session of 12 Sunday singles matches.

The source of all the anger and vitriol is the hatless head of Patrick Cantlay, who delivered three daggers with his putter on the final three holes to flip the final fourball match with Wyndham Clark against McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick for a 1-up U.S. victory.

Throughout the day, European fans at Marco Simone waved their hats at Cantlay after an erroneous report surfaced that Cantlay was not wearing a hat in protest to players not being paid in the Ryder Cup. Cantlay later refuted the report, simply saying that his hat “just doesn’t fit; it’s as simple as that.” He pointed out that he also didn’t wear a hat two years earlier at Whistling Straits.

When Cantlay holed a 43-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, his U.S. teammates and caddies took off their hats and waved it at the player nicknamed “Patty Ice,” for his cool demeanor. After reacting to his clutch birdie with a fist pump, Cantlay tipped an invisible hat to his teammates.

Meanwhile, LaCava, who began to carry Cantlay’s bag in May after getting the green light from a sidelined Tiger Woods, also began waving his hat, seemingly taunting the crowd. He lingered in one spot for more than a few seconds, in McIlroy’s line of sight as the No. 2 player in the world was trying to size up a tying putt from 24 feet.

When McIlroy, unbeaten in his previous three matches, and his caddie, Harry Diamond, asked LaCava to move, LaCava moved back and then took a few steps toward a crouching McIlroy. LaCava appeared to jaw at McIlroy and then gestured toward him with a dismissive wave.

After LaCava finally made his way to the edge of the green, he was confronted by Lowry and Justin Rose. NBC broadcaster John Wood, a former caddie, reported that LaCava basically told him he wanted to enjoy a celebration after not having much to cheer about over the first 16 matches.


Rory McIlroy, along with his caddie Harry Diamond, exchange words with Patrick Cantlay's caddie, Joe LaCava, after their match.

Patrick Smith

McIlroy missed his putt and then Fitzpatrick also missed the tying stroke from 18 feet. As the players and caddies shook hands, McIlroy was seen having a controlled but animated conversation with LaCava.

With Cantlay’s putt, the U.S. won the fourball session 3-1 to climb out of a record-tying seven-point hole after 12 matches. The Europeans tied U.S. teams from 1967 and ’75 for the largest lead through three sessions, 9½-2½.

Hard feelings obviously still lingered well after play was completed. Video posted on social media showed McIlroy angrily shouting and pointing past Justin Thomas’ caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, presumably at LaCava and other American caddies. Lowry had to forcibly move McIroy away from Mackay and got him into one of the Europeans’ courtesy cars.

Cantlay said he didn’t witness the incident with LaCava and McIlroy on the green. “I was too busy letting out all the emotion that built up over the day. I didn't get a good look at it,” he said.

European captain Luke Donald sure did.


Patrick Cantlay and Joe LaCava celebrate American win.

Jamie Squire

“I saw it unfold when Patrick made that putt, Joe was waving his hat,” Donald explained. “Obviously, there was some hat waving going on throughout the day from the crowd not our players. Talked to Rory. He politely asked Joe to move aside. He was in his line of vision. He stood there and didn't move for a while and continued to wave the hat, so I think Rory was upset about that.”

Donald only heard about the incident in the parking lot and said he planned to speak to McIlroy later in the evening. He spoke to his team afterward and shared what he said to them. “I'll talk with Rory when I get back. I didn't see the [parking lot] incident personally. I saw the one on 18. Yeah, as I said in my speech, we always try and play with passion, play with energy, but play with respect. That will certainly be my message to the players.”

Both Donald and U.S. captain Zach Johnson tried to downplay the incident as just another example of the emotional nature of the Ryder Cup.

“Ryder Cup is always passionate. We've seen that many times over the past,” Donald said.

“I just think you see passion and complete emotion involved in the Ryder Cup,” Johnson said. “You know, I don't think it's anything more than that or anything less than that.”

Johnson seemed to suggest that the matter had blown over, obviously not hearing about McIlroy's tirade as he left Marco Simone.

“What I saw on 18 was a phenomenal putt and a celebration by some of our guys, and you know, I saw passion and all of what's great in the Ryder Cup come out,” he said. “And to my knowledge, based on what I was told, that was defused after the match, and so I'm told it's all good.”

It was far from all good. And chances are it will not be all good when singles matches commence at 11:35 a.m. local time. Hard feelings could well linger throughout the afternoon as Europe tries to win back the Cup. Both sides appear to have a reason to be fired up with America capturing some momentum and Europe claiming poor sportsmanship.

Scores will be settled. Probably of various varieties.