Max Homa calls Cantlay Ryder Cup report ‘biggest bulls— I can remember’
The most unforgettable hour of this year’s Ryder Cup — heck, one of the wildest hours of golf this year — came on Saturday evening with just one group left on the course.
I won’t use this space to run back through every moment (I did a fair amount of that here) but to sum things up, the entire proceeding at Marco Simone had suddenly gone wild. The European crowd had turned up the dial all the way and then snapped it clean off. It was intense, electric, pressure-packed, hostile, fun. By the time Patrick Cantlay reached the drivable par-4 16th he was greeted by a massive fan-filled amphitheater, thousands deep, and the large majority of them were waving their hats in his direction.
What happened next was nothing short of surreal. Cantlay poured in a birdie putt at 16, another birdie putt on 17 and then the true shocker: a 43-footer for birdie at the par-5 18th that sent the American team into a hat-waving frenzy and sent Rory McIlroy (and Joe LaCava) into confrontation mode. Professional golf never sees scenes quite like that one.
What made it such a strange, modern story was that the fan fervor — particularly the way it was directed at the hatless Cantlay — had stemmed from a Sky Sports report that had circulated on Twitter midway through the morning session, citing Cantlay’s hatlessness as a protest over not getting paid to be there and alleging that protest had “fractured” the U.S. team room.
But even in real time, Cantlay’s team (plus other U.S. team members) pushed back against that narrative. Cantlay himself called them “outright lies.” And on Tuesday, Max Homa, the U.S. team’s top points-getter, denied it in no uncertain terms, calling reports of a fractured team room, in his words, “the biggest bulls— I can remember, maybe ever.”
That’s the message he delivered on the No Laying Up podcast on Tuesday in a 90-minute recap episode detailing his week at the center of all things Ryder Cup. The interview is worth a listen (here on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Podcasts) even if just for the 20-minute explanation of his final knee-knocking putt. But his insight into HatGate is useful context in thinking about the U.S. team and how the weekend played out.
So, how’d things look from his perspective? On Saturday afternoon, Homa and partner Brian Harman had just won their own match on the 17th green before returning to sit behind the green at No. 16, where Cantlay’s group was teeing off, in desperate pursuit of a point that would bring the U.S. team within 5.
“It didn’t look good, they were 1 down with three to play. And they’re walking down the fairway and absolutely everybody — 10, 20,000 people — has their hat off, waving it,” Homa told hosts Chris Solomon and D.J. Piehowski on the podcast.
“And we just think they’re f—- with Pat because he’s not wearing a hat. That’s all we thought. So they’re doing it and he’s doing it back. Pat’s being the most sarcastic, laughing at everybody. Every time we’d see him we’d do the fake hat [tip] thing. I mean, it was hilarious. We’re all laughing like this is so fun, this is what the Ryder Cup’s all about.
“Pat’s embracing it. And then Pat goes Pat. Made 10-footer, 9-footer, 35-footer. It was nuts. Going back to what Brooks said [earlier in the week], Pat wants the damn ball. There ain’t no denying that. He is unbelievable. And he did the coolest thing I’ve seen in all of golf in I can’t remember. Those three putts in those three holes was tremendous.”
At this point, neither Cantlay nor even Homa had heard much about the report. Cantlay received a quick briefing after his round but, when the two were among the six U.S. players who headed to the media center for interviews, they were surprised by what awaited.
“The first 15 to 18 questions were about Pat’s hat,” Homa said incredulously. “That’s the first time we found out — and same with Pat — that that’s why everyone was doing it, was because he was somehow protesting the United States team because he didn’t get paid to play. Which is all bulls—.
“It was the weirdest thing ever. We couldn’t get people to stop asking about the hat. I remember at one point they finally asked a question that wasn’t about the hat, [Wyndham] had already interjected, I said something, and then the very next question was about the hat. It was like, this is so, so weird.
“One tweet, man. One tweet set all of Rome ablaze.”
Homa said that he, Cantlay and the rest of the team were frustrated by what they saw as irresponsible journalism. He ticked through the various allegations and said that any perceived rift would have been a product of circumstance rather than anything else.
“They said that they had a different dressing room than we did, which was hilarious. They said that they don’t eat with us. They said that they don’t do X, Y, and Z, [Cantlay] and Xander. And it was just funny because it’s like, our team room didn’t even have doors on it. So we all were in the same room. Yeah, we had to take separate cars back to the course every day because that’s how things worked out. Everyone was eating at different times because depending upon when you finished, how fast you got home was like, when you could eat. You’re getting back to the hotel at 9, doing physio, ice bath, workout, whatever, and then you’re trying to go to bed as fast as you can because you have to be up at 4. Everyone was separated in those times. And when we’re at the golf course, everyone was together.
“We love Pat and Xander. They are clearly, like, their own two peas in a pod. But that doesn’t make me any less of a friend to Pat and Xander than what I already was. There was no division. So it was it was very weird to find out all that news and deal with all that. But it made it fun because — I dunno, that Saturday night was some of the funniest s—. The pictures, the videos, everybody, man. It made the week more fun.”
For Homa, who in the same podcast diagnosed himself as “too online,” the moment provided a revelation on the world of social media itself.
“It was like, finally, I get it. Like, none of these people know. People just say stuff. You can tweet whatever you want. And a lot of people are like, ‘Pat only cares about the money, doesn’t care about the Ryder Cup. He was going to skip it.’ It’s just like, none of it was accurate.”
In the aftermath of the Cup, the issue of player compensation came to the forefront — spurred in part by several interviews given by Stefan Schauffele, Xander’s father. Homa said he couldn’t confirm nor deny how those two feel about player compensation and even pointed out that the issue is worth discussing without villainizing anyone. But he was insistent to No Laying Up that was no distraction because it never came up.
“I will agree with you that that would be distracting if that ever f—- happened. But it didn’t. Like zero times did we talk about that. Literally zero. Pat was not protesting by not wearing a hat and we talked about getting paid zero whole times.”
Homa concluded that the week was “the most fun I’ve ever had.” He said the team “all had a blast together, and the vibe was so good, even while we were getting killed.”
“I guess for the first time I was on the inside of one of these types of stories where it just was weird because I just I can’t tell you how wrong so much of what I was reading again on the Internet, just how wrong and dumb it was.”