Rory McIlroy confessed to save his personal relationship with long-time caddy, J P Fitzgerald he had to sever their nine-year business relationship.
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In one of McIlroy’s frankest interviews since the emotional scenes at Wentworth when he announced the break-up of his impending marriage to Caroline Wozniacki, the four-time Major winner spoke openly of having to split from Fitzgerald.
The duo had been together for nine years, bizarrely starting the week after the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale and ending following the final round of the 2017 Open, and also at Royal Birkdale.
“It is a big change as JP has been a huge part of my life for the last decade”, said McIlroy. “We started in July 2008 and we went all the way up to July this year and we had a lot of great times, and we had a lot of great times on and off the golf course.”
“I still consider J P as one of my best friends, and one of my closest friends. But sometimes to preserve a personal relationship you might have to sacrifice a professional one and that was sort of the decision I came to in the end.”
“I was getting very hard on him, on the golf course and I did not want to treat someone like that or anyone like that but sometimes you get driven to that. It felt like the right thing to do and I do not think there is any good time to do it as it was a really tough decision to make.”
McIlroy cited it was “little things” that started to annoy Fitzgerald and similarly little things that Fitzgerald would do that would annoy McIlroy. And McIlroy said he is surprised that the relationship did last nine long years.
“To last nine years out here is way longer than the norm and we did not get off to the best of starts in missing our first three cuts in the summer of 2008, back on the European Tour”, he said. “But then at the time J P went from caddying for Ernie Els, who was top 10 in the world at the time to caddying for this 18 year-old kid who was like 200th in the world but did have some ability.”
“We part with our heads held high given what we achieved together and I as I said to him, he is definitely not going to be a stranger to me as he lives in Dubai for most of the year and I am out there quite a bit so we will still catch up and go out for dinner and we will still remain tight because as I said he has been a huge part of my life for my whole professional career”.
McIlroys sacking of Fitzgerald stunned the golf world given the current World No. 4 had praised his caddy during last fortnight’s Open Championship. But then there was just as many suggesting the writing was on the wall for Fitzgerald particularly following McIlroy’s 2011 Masters final day meltdown.
As for Fitzgerald, McIlroy went to lengths to single out his fellow Irishman who had been by his side in winning four Majors, another some 20 titles and along with the way reaching World No. 1. Harry Diamond, one of McIlroy’s closest friends as well as best man at his recent wedding, will act as fill-in caddy for these next two weeks and tournaments, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship that McIlroy has won before.
However, McIlroy stressed he is on the lookout for a more permanent and professional Tour caddy. “Honestly, we will see how these next two weeks go as I am not ruling anything out”, he said. “I could have Harry on the bag for two weeks or it could go longer than that if we have a couple of good weeks here, so you never know.”
“But that decision will be up to Harry rather than me and he has his own thing going on back home though you never know as a couple of wins may change things. The thing is Harry know me, he knows my game and he has caddied for me before so he also knows my personality, and he is a very good player in his own right having played in the Irish Amateur and he has won the West of Ireland and a lot of amateur tournaments, so he is a good player just like a lot of the caddies out here.”
“That was the big thing about these two weeks as he knows me and he knows my thought process, and I might think differently than some of the other players out here. I might go in a different way to get to the same decision but Harry knows that I need someone like him that knows me and that is why he is on the bag for the next two weeks”.
And McIlroy had some friendly words of advice for reigning Open Champion, Jordan Spieth who heads next week to Quail Hollow looking to achieve in his first attempt what McIlroy has now spent the last four years looking to achieve…to win the coveted Grand Slam. Spieth is a PGA Championship away from achieving it while McIlroy needs to win the Masters if he is to join just five other players in the history of the game to win all four Majors.
“I would not like Jordan to do it next week, so he can wait until 2018 to do it”, said McIlroy smiling. “It would be nice if both of us did it in 2018 but we will see how it goes.”
“So, after the PGA Championship I have 10 days before the start of the Northern Trust to find someone but there is loads of good caddies out here and a lot of great caddies with players already.”
“But I do not want to take someone off a player is they are happy, so you have to be pretty careful in that way, as well.”