Sunday’s singles at the Ryder Cup figured to be mostly ceremonial. Europe has a commanding lead, 10½-5½, over the United States heading into the final day at Guidonia Montecelio, Italy.
And now the fun begins with Hats Off gate.
In the final match of Saturday afternoon’s fourball, Patrick Cantlay, playing with Wyndham Clark, buried a long birdie putt on the 18th, and his caddie, Joe LaCava, celebrated by taking off his cap and waving it in proximity of European star Rory McIlroy, who was lining up a birdie putt to tie the match.
McIlroy and partner Matt Fitzpatrick missed their putts and the US gained an improbable, and much needed, full point.
The incident overshadowed an afternoon in which the Americans desperately needed points, and hope. And they got it, winning the session, 3-1.
Trailing, 1 down, with three holes to play, Cantlay birdied the last three holes to turn a loss to the overpowering McIlroy, who had been unbeatable to that point, and Fitzpatrick into a full point for Team USA.
Enter hats off and LaCava.
Rumors of Team USA dissention hung in the air like a McIlroy wedge shot. According to a report, Cantlay is refusing to wear his US hat because he believes players should be paid for the event.
Understand from several sources that the US team room is fractured, a split led predominantly by Patrick Cantlay.— Jamie Weir (@jamiecweir) September 30, 2023
Cantlay believes players should be paid to participate in the Ryder Cup, and is demonstrating his frustration at not being paid by refusing to wear a team cap.
Fans at Marco Simone caught wind of the flap, and waved their caps at Cantlay throughout the match, drawing an occasional smile from Cantlay.
Asked after the match why he wasn’t wearing the team cap, Cantlay smiled slyly and said, ”It doesn’t fit.”
With the US getting bludgeoned Saturday, the story took on a life of its own. Cantlay did not wear a hat two years ago at Whistling Straits, to very little publicity. The Americans won in a rout, 19-9.
Europe only needs 4 points to win the Cup. The incident could fuel the team’s fire into a historic victory, or a historic meltdown.
Sunday morning should be a good opportunity to doff your cap and enjoy the show.
Jim Hoban can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.