An emotionally-charged Rory McIlroy revealed Shane Lowry had to hold him back from storming into USA’s locker room after his bust-up with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava.
After securing his singles victory on Sunday, McIlroy described how that feud, and also reading the words of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, had helped him bounce back.
Team USA’s antics on the 18th green on Saturday night lit a fire under the Northern Irishman, who was back to his imperious best to secure a 3&1 win against Sam Burns. “That’s the angriest I’ve been in a long time,” he said of his Saturday night emotions.
Tears of despair at Whistling Straits two years ago became tears of joy on the green afterwards, with McIlroy explaining how he had read some of Aurelius’s words to get in the right frame of mind in Rome. “I got up and read a few words of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor,” he added. “I’m a big follower of Stoicism. If anyone was going to get in my head it was Marcus.”
🗣️ "It fuelled me."
A tearful Rory McIlroy spoke of how much winning four points during the Ryder Cup in Rome meant to him. 💙🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/5GfUmSzGxN
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) October 1, 2023
It had appeared earlier on Sunday that McIlroy’s feud with LaCava had been defused after the caddie sent a text apologising over his 18th green antics.
But McIlroy explained after securing victory that he had postponed any potential talks with LaCava so he could focus entirely on securing a point against Burns.
“He reached out last night but we haven’t met,” McIlroy added. “I’d rather let this get over and done with first and then handle it afterwards.”
Saturday’s row escalated after USA’s wild celebrations on Saturday on the green while McIlroy and his playing partner, Matt Fitzpatrick, still had their own birdie putts to come. LaCava, Cantlay’s caddie but better known as Tiger Woods’s long-term bagman, had incensed McIlroy. There was also a suggestion that LaCava had stepped on McIlroy’s line: ie come between McIlroy’s ball and the hole, which is considered poor etiquette.
Detailing what was going through his mind, McIlroy said: “I was actually about to drop my bag and go into the American locker room, because I was so angry. But Shane sort of held me back from doing that. And the first American I saw was Bones Mackay and I knew he was close to Joe so I just sort of let them have a bit of my mind.”
When asked what had annoyed him most, he added: “The fact that on the 17th green and 18th green I’m trying to get the crowd to quieten down to let Patrick hit his putt. I was trying to afford Patrick the opportunity to do what he did, which is great. And then I’m trying to read my putt on 18 and he’s standing directly in my way. So I don’t feel like I was afforded the same opportunity to make my putt as Patrick was. I was trying to do the right thing. And that was exactly the wrong thing to do. And that’s not the way the game should be played. Especially by a caddie. Well, caddie, player, whatever. I just thought it was completely disrespectful. That’s the angriest I’ve been in a long time.”
Against Burns, McIlroy hit his tee shot to 10ft at the par-three 17th. When Burns on the right fringe did not hole his chip, he conceded for a 3&1 European win to leave Luke Donald’s side one-and-half points away from regaining the trophy.
McIlroy then appeared close to tears as he was asked further about the controversy by Sky Sports: “I needed that to fuel me today and not let it take away from what has been a great week,” he added.
“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.
“I just wanted to win another point for Europe. Ever since Whistling Straits, I was so disappointed in my performance there [so] to come here and get four points for the team means a lot to me.
“It’s a great bounce back after Whistling Straits. The team we have is incredible. It’s a young team I think will be around for a long time. It’s been a great week for me personally but need to follow them and get them in the house.”