Caddie Joe LaCava gets in shouting match with Shane Lowry in heated Ryder Cup moment

Caddie Joe LaCava and Shane Lowry exchange tense words on Saturday at the Ryder Cup

Caddie Joe LaCava and Shane Lowry exchange tense words on Saturday at the Ryder Cup.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

After a day and a half of drubbings in Rome, the U.S. Ryder Cup team finally showed some signs of life on Saturday afternoon with an impressive 3-1 session win.

Perhaps the most important part of the American charge was authored by Patrick Cantlay, who drained a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to seal a come-from-behind victory over Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick.

But the most talked-about moment came in between Cantlay’s bomb and McIlroy’s ensuing miss, when a spat broke out between Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava, and European team member Shane Lowry, who was watching the match on the side of the green with the rest of the European team.

Patrick Cantlay of The United States Team follows his putt on the first hole in his match with Xander Schauffele against Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton during the Saturday morning foursomes matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 30, 2023 in Rome, Italy.
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As the Americans were celebrating Cantlay’s putt, with many of them waving their hats in the air, on-course reporter John Wood cut into the NBC broadcast to report on an ongoing shouting match down on the green.

“Guys it’s getting uglier out here. Shane Lowry and Joe LaCava were just screaming at each other,” Wood said on the broadcast. “Shane was on the back of the green, Joe started shouting something and Shane started shouting something back. I don’t know what it was but it wasn’t ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ Getting pretty chippy.”

Once the scene settled down, McIlroy missed his putt to tie, officially handing the American team the win. At that point, the broadcast went to Steve Sands, who was also on the scene by the green, and he provided some more details on the exchange.

“Rory McIlroy took issue with [LaCava] waving the hat before he had to make his putt there,” Sands reported. “And then when he turned around, Shane Lowry gave Joe a little bit of lip, and Joe gave it right back to Shane. So, this thing is getting heated out here at the 18th.”

Still confused? There’s one more essential piece of information you need to get the entire picture of what’s going on here.

Cantlay had been the subject of European hecklers’ taunts all day, with fans taking off their hats and waving them at the PGA Tour veteran. The hecklers were waving their caps for two reasons: 1) Cantlay has chosen not to wear a hat during the Ryder Cup this week; and 2) Sky Sports’ Jamie Weir reported that Cantlay wasn’t donning hats as a protest over the fact that Ryder Cup players don’t get paid.

Wood later talked to LaCava on the green and LaCava told him that as he celebrated Cantlay’s putt by waving his own hat (which many American players and caddies surrounding the green had done) he’d accidentally got in the way of McIlroy as he prepared to putt. According to Sands, LaCava said McIlroy didn’t have a problem with it, but Lowry had taken exception to the hat-waving — and he let LaCava know.

jon rahm and brooks koepka at ryder cup
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Moments after the incident, LaCava and McIlroy exchanged words while shaking hands at the conclusion of the match.

But European captain Luke Donald offered up a different account than LaCava’s when asked about the kerfuffle during his Friday evening press conference. Donald said that McIlroy had asked LaCava to move out of his line of vision, but LaCava “didn’t move.”

“I saw it unfold when Patrick made that putt, Joe was waving his hat. Obviously there was some hat waving going on throughout the day from the crowd for our players,” Donald said. “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.”

Shane Bacon later posted an alternate video of the moment taken from the Peacock Ryder Cup livestream on his X account, which you can see below.

Sands caught up with Cantlay and Clark before they left the 18th green, and he first asked Cantlay why he wasn’t wearing the U.S. team hats this week, and Cantlay’s answer was simple.

“It just doesn’t fit,” Cantlay said. “It’s as simple as that. I didn’t wear it at Whistling Straits [for the 2021 Ryder Cup] because the hat just doesn’t fit. So that’s really all it is.”

Shortly thereafter, Sands got to the heart of the matter, asking him about LaCava and the incident that had just unfolded.

“[LaCava] works for you. What are your thoughts on him having exchanges like that at an event like this?” Sands asked.

“He’s the best,” Cantlay said. “That’s all there is to say about that.”

LaCava — who famously worked as Tiger Woods’ caddie for years, including for his 2019 Masters win — made the full-time move to Cantlay’s bag in May, after the two had paired up for several tournaments while Woods was injured.

Despite Cantlay’s heroics and the Americans’ afternoon session win, the European team heads into Sunday’s singles matches with a huge 10.5-5.5 lead.

Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham Editor

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