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Ryder Cup bust-up explained: Inside story of how controversy helped Europe to victory in Rome

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When Team Europe took a record-breaking advantage into the Saturday afternoon of the Ryder Cup, there was little indication of the chaos and controversy that was to come.

Luke Donald’s side, heading into the biennial contest as massive underdogs after their heavy loss at Whistling Straits two years earlier, had followed an unbeaten opening day by winning three of their first four matches on day two to build a seven-point cushion over Team USA.

Reports emerged during the morning foursomes that Zach Johnson’s side were embroiled in internal disputes within the team room, something quickly denied from the American camp, while there were suggestions Patrick Cantlay was also not wearing a cap due to him not being paid to play.

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Take a look at the best fancy dress from the Ryder Cup weekend with dinosaurs, astronauts, hot dogs and more!

The story surrounding Cantlay’s cap spread around the course and led to an uncomfortable atmosphere for the visitors at Marco Simone GC, with ‘hat gate’ later that day playing its part in one of the most heated moments in Ryder Cup history.

“I’m not going to lie, Patrick (Cantlay) was getting a lot of stick on the golf course on Saturday afternoon about the hat and everything,” McIlroy told Sky Sports ahead of ‘Europe! Europe!’, a new documentary released this December. “I can imagine there’s only so much of that you can take before it really starts getting to you.”

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European fans at the Ryder Cup continued to taunt Patrick Cantlay by waving caps in his direction and booing him on the first tee at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome

Cantlay was partnering US Open Wyndham Clark as they faced Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick in the final match of the day, where the former FedExCup champion produced birdies at the 16th and 17th to send the contest level heading into the par-five last.

A dramatic finish saw Cantlay, with several US team-mates watching on, drain a huge long-range birdie, with the putt sparking wild celebration from the Americans – including caddie Joe LaCava – around the 18th green.

LaCava was among those to wave his cap in the air and walked close to McIlroy ahead of his birdie chance, with a heated exchange soon following when both European players missed their putts to halve the hole and the match.

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Sky Sports’ Jamie Weir dissects the stories surrounding Patrick Cantlay and why day two has led to high tensions between the two teams

“It was just very bizarre – there’s just no other work to describe it!” Fitzpatrick told Sky Sports. “It was obviously very unprofessional and not a good place to be in, so left a sour taste for that day’s play really.”

McIlroy added: “He [LaCava] just stayed in his spot a little bit too long. It sort of inhibited me from going down the low side of my putt and reading it. I just felt like we weren’t afforded the opportunity to hit our putts in a fair and equitable way.”

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Lots of drama on the 18th hole on Day 2 as Team USA wave their caps back at the Ryder Cup crowd as Patrick Cantlay earns his team a crucial point

Did it help Team Europe?

Shane Lowry was among those involved in the discussions on the 18th green after the dramatic conclusion, with the point for Team USA in near darkness reducing the deficit to 10.5-5.5 and setting up a closer final day than many expected.

“I think Joe [LaCava] probably blacked out a little bit and celebrated a bit too much and did a bit too much,” Lowry told Sky Sports. “I didn’t like it, Rory didn’t like it, a lot of people didn’t like it, but to be honest I felt like it was almost what we needed.

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Andrew Coltart provided his thoughts on one of the moments of the golfing year, where Rory McIlroy had a dispute with caddie Joe LaCava at the Ryder Cup

“If I think, if anything, what they did on that 18th green on that Saturday evening helped us going into Sunday and it refocused us. It all got a little bit out of hand, but everyone was fired up, it fired us up a lot and I do think it helped us.”

McIlroy agreed: “I felt like it added some much-needed drama to the whole event. I felt like Saturday afternoon was getting a little bit flat and it definitely gave Sunday an added bit of spice.”

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Team Europe took their celebrations onto the team bus after their thrilling Ryder Cup victory over the USA in Rome

Jon Rahm was not involved in the final-hole exchange, having been rested from the session by Donald, although thinks the incident prevented Europe from regaining the trophy by an even bigger margin.

“I actually firmly believe that had not happened and they just make the putt, even if we lose the match, with how well Europe was going then I think we would have done better on Sunday,” Rahm told Sky Sports.

“I think that finish and that bit of controversy gave them [the USA] a bit of a spark for Sunday and a little bit of extra energy going into the final day. I could be wrong, but I guess we’ll never know!”

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Rory McIlroy is hoping the Ryder Cup rules surrounding LIV Golf players’ eligibility will be amended so Jon Rahm can take part in 2025

What happened afterwards?

“I was very fired up and I lost it a little bit to be honest,” Lowry explained. “I stood up [in the team room] and shouted a few things and I was very much trying to say how much I wanted to win and not only wanted to beat them but annihilate them.”

Lowry then had to usher McIlroy away from outside the clubhouse and into a car, having seen his team-mate also point angrily and shout near Justin Thomas’ caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, with the unsavoury scenes concluding a remarkable finish to day two in Rome.


Europe! Europe!


“It wasn’t really an exchange with Bones in the parking lot, it was all sort of one way!” McIlroy admitted. “I shouldn’t of went at him in the way I did but I was angry and it’s just the emotions that come out of you in the Ryder Cup. We all shook hands and we all patched it up on Sunday night.”

Lowry, who later accompanied McIlroy for an ice bath back at the hotel, said: “He [McIlroy] said a few things that he probably regrets a little bit! I put him in the car and said a couple of things to Bones about how I didn’t think it was great Joe (LaCava) did and how it wasn’t very classy.”

Fitzpatrick was walking out to the car park at the time of the bust-up and added: “I just obviously heard a few expletives in the direction of the US camp, which I have to say were probably fair after what happened!”

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Luke Donald discusses his motivations after he was announced as Team Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for the 2025 contest.

Europe then won six points from the Sunday singles to run out 16.5-11.5 winners, with Rahm leading out the hosts to claim the opening point and McIlroy bouncing back to defeat Sam Burns in his match.

“I spoke to Harry Diamond [McIlroy’s caddie] afterwards and he reckoned that when Rory arrived in the morning there wasn’t a man that was going to beat him, no matter who that was, and he showed that,” Lowry admitted.

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The best of the action from day three of the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Italy

McIlroy, who ended the week as Europe’s top scorer with four points, said: “I tried to really let it fuel me and I tried to use it in the best way possible. This has been two years of waiting since Whistling Straits and we got our absolute a***s kicked there, so be able to come back and redeem ourselves and play the way we did was relief more than anything else.

“That relief turned to joy then to jubilation and we had a pretty good Sunday night that rolled into the next week, then maybe into the week after that!”

“Europe! Europe!” is a new documentary out from December 21 on Sky Sports Golf and repeated throughout the festive period, looking back at Europe’s dramatic Solheim Cup defence and impressive Ryder Cup victory. Stream golf and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – just £21 a month for six months.

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