Golf: Rory McIlroy severs ties with long-time caddie

World No. 4 Rory McIlroy with his former caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, at The Open Championship last month. The Northern Irishman will have a new bagman alongside him at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational later this week.
World No. 4 Rory McIlroy with his former caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, at The Open Championship last month. The Northern Irishman will have a new bagman alongside him at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational later this week.PHOTO: REUTERS

Nine-year partnership between the pair ends and comes shortly after Open dressing-down

NEW YORK • Rory McIlroy has sacked his long-time caddie J.P. Fitzgerald, ending a partnership that took the Northern Irishman to four Major titles and the top of the world rankings.

The world No. 4 will have a new caddie on his bag at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational this week after ending his nine-year relationship with his compatriot, a source told Reuters.

There was no immediate response from McIlroy's management team to an e-mailed request for a comment late on Sunday.

Fitzgerald's sacking, which McIlroy is expected to confirm on his arrival at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, comes barely a week after he publicly thanked his bagman for jolting him into gear when he made a poor start to The Open Championship.

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McIlroy, who won his last Major at the 2014 PGA Championship, employed Fitzgerald in 2008 shortly after turning professional.

The pair enjoyed a brilliantly successful partnership as McIlroy took over from American Tiger Woods as the game's dominant force to become world No. 1.

"He has taken me from 200th in the world to Major champion," McIlroy said of Fitzgerald in 2011.

At the British Open at Royal Birkdale earlier this month, McIlroy again heaped praise on Fitzgerald, who delivered some blunt words to his boss after he started the Major tournament with a string of bogeys.

After fighting back to shoot a one-over 71 in the first round, McIlroy told reporters that Fitzgerald had done a "great job".

McIlroy revealed: "J.P. gave me a good talking-to on the sixth tee box. He said, 'You are Rory McIlroy. What are you doing? What are you doing?'

"It definitely helped, he did a great job. It was much appreciated.

"I was nervous, anxious, going out and timid. I really didn't find the middle of the club face until the seventh tee.

"It was a lack of confidence from the last couple of weeks getting into my head a bit.

"But J.P. reminded me who I was and that helped and got me back in a positive frame of mind."

It now looks like the British Open was Fitzgerald's swansong with McIlroy, who flirted with contention in the final round before finishing joint fourth.

Forbes estimated that Fitzgerald earned US$1.65 million (S$2.2 million) from his cut of McIlroy's prize money over the last 12 months to June this year.

Fitzgerald's sacking comes weeks after Phil Mickelson parted ways with his caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay after a 25-year partnership that netted the American five Major titles.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'Mcilroy severs ties with caddie'. Print Edition | Subscribe