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US Ryder Cup vice-captain Fred Couples has claimed Rory McIlroy disrespected a caddie in front of his wife while defending the actions of Joe LaCava in Saturday’s fiery ending.
The biennial competition burst into life on the 18th green on Saturday as McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick’s fourballs match against Patrick Cantlay and Wyndham Clark came to a dramatic conclusion.
Cantlay made a miraculous birdie on the last, with the American’s caddy LaCava celebrating wildly in the middle of the green, much to the displeasure and anger of McIlroy who still had a putt to tie the match.
The Northern Irishman would fail to make the putt but tensions soon boiled over after the match, with footage showing Shane Lowry holding back McIlroy as he confronted another US caddy, Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, in the Marco Simone car park.
McIlroy claimed Saturday’s incident was the “angriest I’ve ever been in my career” and labelled the actions on the 18th green as “disgraceful.”
He later apologised to Mackay for the heated exchange in the car park but Couples has since restoked the flames by brandishing the four-time major champion’s outburst as “disrespectful.”
“He was yelling at Bones, which is disrespectful with his wife standing a foot from him saying words that shouldn’t be said,” the American said on his SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show.
“Now, I’m on Rory’s side too because I love Rory McIlroy to death. But when you’re incensed and you want to fight, you’re going to say things. Is that disrespectful?”
McIlroy stares down LaCava on the 18th green
Couples also leapt to the defence of LaCava – the 64-year-old’s prior caddie for 22 years of his professional career – for his role in the debacle on Saturday evening.
“I want someone to tell me where anything that happened is disrespectful,” Couples added.
“I didn’t see it. Patrick screamed, which he doesn’t do very often and he tipped his fake cap. We all were on the front of the green. No one moved. We just took our hats off and made little circles with our hats.
“It’s the last match of the day. We’re getting absolutely hammered. But what, did someone do a Justin Leonard, ran across the green? Patrick didn’t.
“Rory, God bless, Rory, ’cause when he makes a putt in the Ryder Cup, he screams and yells ‘vamos’ and ‘let’s go’ and all that. That’s what you should do. Joe LaCava was standing [on the green]. I don’t think he moved two feet.”
Tensions rose immediately after the match’s conclusion with Lowry, European vice-captain Thomas Bjorn and McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, all confronting LaCava. Couples, however, remained adamant that the European reaction was out of proportion.
“People think he shushed Rory when he did that hand gesture,” Couples ended. “Little Harry Diamond, who we all love, too, chimed in. So Joe said, ‘I don’t have time for you.’
“Then Joe turned to get out of the way. And Shane Lowry and Thomas Bjorn were screaming some things at him, which is fine. I don’t have any problem with Shane Lowry or Thomas Bjorn – they’re protecting the number one player on their team.
“But no one did anything wrong. He [LaCava] didn’t stand over him. It wouldn’t be a 15-yard penalty in college football for taunting. He said he was 6 feet from him. Was Joe right? Probably not. Did anyone disrespect the European team?”