This year once again had some explosive moments, because while there were open disputes among some, things became unexpectedly controversial around Tiger Woods. Patrick Cantlay was at the center of a heated situation more than once in 2023 and climate activists also made their presence felt on golf courses around the world on several occasions. A Canadian player made the acquaintance of security and Patrick Reed feels unfairly treated.
Outrages at the 2023 Ryder Cup: Patrick Cantlay’s hat-gate and McIlroy vs. LaCava
As if the Ryder Cup didn’t have enough to offer this year, Patrick Cantlay’s non-existent headgear was to take center stage in Rome. Triggered by a tweet, rumors quickly spread over the course of Saturday that the non-existent cap was a protest by Cantlay to demand money for the American players at the Ryder Cup. The 31-year-old said that the cap simply didn’t fit him, but the European fans in Rome had already found their battle cries:
The resulting heated situation erupted towards the end of the fourball between Matt Fitzpatrick/Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay/Wyndham Clark. Joe LaCava, Cantlay’s caddie and former companion of Tiger Woods, caused a stir. Inspired by the European spectators, he and the rest of the US team took off their hats after Cantlay’s birdie putt and began to twirl them above their heads. Rory McIlroy , who was on the verge of a crucial putt on 18 with which he could theoretically have equalized the match. McIlroy made his opinion clear to LaCava and there were also arguments with other members of the European team.
But it had an aftermath, because as the players, caddies and consorts were getting ready in the parking lot of the Marco Simone Golf Club for transportation to the hotel, the conflict was about to boil over again. A visibly heated Rory McIlroy wanted to let the American team know once again what he thought of LaCava’s action and snapped at Jim Mackay, Justin Thomas’ caddie, who was just leaving the clubhouse. Shane Lowry intervened and maneuvered McIlroy into the waiting car. According to McIlroy himself, he then had to cool down in an ice bath at the hotel.
Slow play heats things up
It was not only at the Ryder Cup that Patrick Cantlay was to become the focus of outrages. Cantlay did not only make positive headlines at the US Masters in April. The eight-time winner on the PGA Tour drew the ire of the other players on the final day due to his slow play. This went so far that his flight partner Viktor Hovland played his chip from next to the green on one hole before Cantlay was even close to the green. Brooks Koepka in particular, who was competing for victory with Jon Rahm in the flight behind, had few good words for his compatriot. “The group in front of us was brutally slow,” he said after losing the final round. “Jon went to the loo seven times during the round and we were still waiting.”
Cantlay was not the only cause of delays. Carlota Ciganda, who won the Solheim Cup with the European team this year, was also slow at the women’s major in France – too slow according to the referees. The Spaniard was given two penalty strokes for her slow play and was in danger of missing the cut. But Ciganda refused to accept the penalty and did not bow to the officials’ judgment. She refused to note the extra strokes and signed the scorecard anyway. She was later disqualified from the major for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Climate activism: golf courses become a target for the last generation and co
Controversial actions by climate activists, who protested several times in a prominent and media-effective manner, also accompanied the world of golf throughout the year. On European golf courses, the protests mainly took the form of damage to property. In Switzerland, the group “Grondements des Terres” (rumblings of the earth) caused a stir with vandalism and the placing of potatoes on torn up turf. On the links course at GC Budersand on the island of Sylt, the “Last Generation” also worked on the green and placed a sign saying “nature reserve” to draw attention to the renaturation of the area, which they consider necessary. DGV President Kobold criticized the action and referred to the ecosystem services provided by golf courses. And a major also became the target of activists. On day 2 of the British Open 2023, people from the “Just Stop Oil” organization blocked the 17th green of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, but were removed from the green without causing a major stir.
Tiger Woods’ tampon prank backfires
What was Tiger Woods thinking? At the Genesis Invitational in February, some people asked themselves exactly this question. It was Woods’ first regular tournament in a long time and the veteran had come up with a special “fun” idea. Together with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, he set off on the round and things got explosive on the hole afterwards. Because when Thomas played his drive shorter than Tiger, Woods pressed a tampon into his friend’s hand as he left the tee box and they both burst out laughing. However, the incident did not go down well with everyone, especially on social media. The tampon as a sign that JT hits like a woman was seen by some as a derogatory statement about women and their golfing achievements. Tiger himself came out afterwards and apologized.
The tackle of the year
One of the most unexpected clips of this year took place at the Canadian Open. For the first time since 1954, a Canadian, Nick Taylor, won the tournament on the PGA Tour. Compatriot and fellow golfer Adam Hadwin wanted to celebrate the victory on home soil together with the newly crowned winner, but a security employee interpreted the approaching golfer as a potential danger and pulled him to the ground.
Fortunately, what looked like a lot of excitement ended without injury to Hadwin. He took the tackle with humor in Canadian style and re-enacted the scene with his wife on Halloween.
American Tour pro exposed with attempted fraud
Also in Canada, a player caused a scandal when he tried to stay in the tournament by manipulating his scorecard. At a PGA Tour Canada tournament, Justin Doeden asked for his scorecard after his round, allegedly to check something. When hole 18, a par 5, finally showed a par for Doeden on the leaderboard, his flight partners expressed their doubts to the officials about the accuracy of this score. It was revealed that Doeden had erased the 7 on the scorecard and written in a 5 in order to make the cut. His action would have had far-reaching consequences for many other players, as his alleged score would have shifted the cut line from -2 to -3, costing 13 additional players the cut. Doeden admitted his offense afterwards and called it “the biggest mistake of his life.”
Tee-Gate: Cold reunion of Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed
Rory McIlroy was not only involved in an explosive situation at the Ryder Cup at the end of the golf year, he was also involved in a dispute at the beginning of the year, but this time it was directed at him. At the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at the beginning of the year, there was a reunion between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, who had switched to LIV. But when the US American tried to greet the Northern Irishman on the driving range, Rory gave him the cold shoulder. An annoyed Reed then threw a tee in the direction of the four-time major winner. As unspectacular as this action looked in the video, the outrage that followed was all the greater.
The background was a legal dispute between the two professionals. Reed’s lawyer had sent McIlroy a subpoena at Christmas and had a negative impact on the holidays at McIlroy’s home. As a result, “Rors” said of the incident: “If I was in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake. I was down by my bag and he came up to me and I was busy with my work and my training and I didn’t really feel the need to say hello to him.”
“If the roles were reversed and I’d thrown the tea at him, I’d expect a lawsuit,” Rory added.