There were so many good stories around the Ryder Cup, that it’s disappointing the one that attracted the most attention was Patrick Cantlay not wearing a cap.
He was capless, Sky Sports golf correspondent Jamie Weir ‘revealed’ to the world, in protest at no money being made available for golfers to be at the Ryder Cup. He and his mate Xander Schauffele had also caused a ‘split’ in the Team USA camp over their demand for payment to play.
And so, the biggest story of the Ryder Cup was born. Actually, the biggest non-story.
Those who treated Weir’s social media comments as the gospel quickly spread the word. We were even treated to a ‘hilarious’ video showing a South African swearing at Cantlay as he walked down the fairway. ‘Waar’s jou hoed, jou naai?’ And a bit more descriptive vulgar South African language. How we laughed. Or not.
After the Saturday’s play, ‘Capgate’ had even seen Rory McIlroy and Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava have it out near their courtesy cars at the clubhouse. For the record, LaCava should never have escalated the situation, taking off his cap and waving it around in front of McIlroy, while the golfer was lining up his own putt.
Some called the sideshow good for golf, and great for the Ryder Cup, showing what passion there is on either side. The event remains the best team event in all sport, held every two years and capturing the imagination of golf followers worldwide, even if it’s ‘just’ the USA and Europe competing.
But, to create a non-story out of Cantlay not wearing a cap in supposed protest at not being paid to represent the USA, and then enjoying the acrimony that followed, is an example of lazy ‘journalism’. Some might call it ‘gutter’ journalism.
By all means, celebrate Europe regaining the famous trophy, a 16.5-11.5 win that wasn’t in doubt from the moment they went 4-0 up in the Friday foursomes. But focus on the magnificence of the golf played, not on a player who didn’t wear a cap.
It was after the 2021 Ryder Cup that I wrote a column in this magazine. It was called: Headspace For Rent.
I pointed out that Cantlay hadn’t worn a cap in that year’s Ryder Cup, and the fact remained that most golfers only wear caps because they are paid to do so. That’s different from protesting that you’re not being paid.
‘When you think about it, the previous giants who walked the fairways didn’t wear caps,’ I wrote. ‘The great Arnold Palmer didn’t wear one, when Jack Nicklaus won his 18th and final Major at the 1986 Masters he had no cap. Nick Faldo won The Open in 1992 without a cap, Nick Price did the same in 1994, as did Jose Maria Olazabal at the 1994 Masters, while 1991 PGA Championship winner John Daly was similarly uncluttered on top.
‘Today’s top men’s professionals earn up to $500,000 to wear a cap bearing the name of their sponsors.
‘At the Ryder Cup, Patrick Cantlay played without a cap, while at the Tokyo Olympics Rory McIlroy spent a week in the heat without a cap.’
I’m repeating what I said in 2021 because it rings as true two years later. I don’t believe Cantlay was in any way ‘protesting’, and the journalist who started the argument could have done the tiniest bit of research, even with Cantlay and McIlroy in 2021, and realised that by 2023 it was nothing but a storm in a ‘hatcup’.
– This column first appeared in the November 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images