Rory McIlroy has said that two heated rows with American caddies left him wanting to “make it hurt” for Team USA, as Europe channeled rage into results to regain the Ryder Cup on Sunday. The Northern Irishman dazzled in Rome, contributing a tournament-best four points as the hosts held off a spirited fightback to run out 16.5 – 11.5 winners and trigger euphoric celebrations on the 18th green at Marco Simone Golf Club.
Europe holds off late USA comeback to regain Ryder Cup
It was a stark contrast to scenes on the same spot some 24 hours prior, as tensions boiled over at the end of Saturday’s fourballs round. The catalyst was American Patrick Cantlay sinking a brilliant 30-foot birdie putt to help clinch a crucial win for himself and Wyndham Clark over McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick. Cantlay’s heroics inflicted McIlroy’s sole loss of the week and cut Europe’s lead to five points, renewed hope for Team USA sparking emphatic celebrations among onlooking teammates and – crucially – caddie Joe LaCava.
McIlroy was incensed by LaCava celebrating near him, waving a hat in the air, as he lined up his attempt to tie the match. After confronting LaCava on the green, hostilities reignited in the course’s car park as the 34-year-old got into an angry exchange with another Team USA caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay. Having been ushered into a car and taken to “cool off” in the hotel’s cold plunge bath by teammate Shane Lowry, McIlroy returned Sunday to defeat Sam Burns 3&1 in his singles match, “the disrespect” of the previous evening fresh in European minds.
“I don’t think it just motivated me, it motivated the entire team … we wanted to go out there and make it hurt for them,” McIlroy told BBC Sport. “I felt like I used it to my advantage and came out with a different level of focus and determination and, in a way, it gave the whole team a bit of fire in our bellies. “Walking off the 18th yesterday was the angriest I have been in my career. I said to the US guys I thought it was disgraceful what went on. I made that clear.
“But I needed to calm myself down. I could have let it bring me down the wrong path but I let it focus me.”
The four-time major winner later said he had apologized to Mackay – who caddies for Justin Thomas – via text on Sunday morning. McIlroy explained that the caddie had been “in the wrong place at the wrong time” as he was the first American that the 34-year-old golf saw after leaving the locker room, subsequently taking the “brunt” of his anger.
McIlroy added that he had also been in conversation over text with LaCava, and is optimistic the rift will heal in time. “Everything will be fine,” McIlroy told reporters. “It’s a point of contention and it still hurts, but time is a great healer and we’ll all move on.”
According to NBC Sports reporter Steve Sands , LaCava texted McIlroy’s team late Saturday night, the message reading: “Love you guys, I have nothing but respect.”
CNN has reached out to Team USA representatives regarding the two incidents.
Cantlay said he did not see the incident between LaCava and McIlroy, but praised his European counterpart for his “fantastic” performances in Rome, while US captain Zach Johnson insisted the issue between the duo had been “diffused.”
“I spoke with Joe after, and he said he talked to Rory and it was all good. That’s all I know,” Johnson told reporters Saturday. “What I saw on 18 was a phenomenal putt and a celebration by some of our guys. I saw passion and all of what’s great in the Ryder Cup come out.
“The Ryder Cup is so full of emotion and passion that sometimes as humans we get ahead of ourselves, both sides. And it’s the beauty and the curse of it, but I think the beauty far outweighs anything else.”
A leading performance in a dominant victory sealed an emotional personal redemption arc for McIlroy, as tears of joy replaced tears of anguish from the 2021 Ryder Cup. The Northern Irishman had been inconsolable after losing comprehensively three times at Whistling Straits, explaining that he “should have done more” to prevent Europe’s historically crushing 9-19 defeat in an anguished TV interview.
Almost two years to the day, an elated McIlroy bounced into Team Europe’s winners conference following a career-best performance – and his fifth victory – at his seventh Ryder Cup. “Everyone at the start of the week was talking about, ‘Do you want to get revenge on the U.S. Team,’ but this wasn’t about revenge. This was about redemption and showing what we could do.
“This been a process … we’ve known months in advance, basically, what the game plan was, how we were going to execute it, and then it just comes down to everyone getting on the golf course and being themselves and playing the way they know that they can play. And this is the result, which is amazing.”
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