Rory McIlroy has gone into fascinating detail about how his time with JP Fitzgerald came to a sudden end in 2017 after their four majors and nine years together

When Rory McIlroy and his caddie JP Fitzgerald went their separate ways the timing of the parting looked quite strange. McIlroy had just tied for 4th at the Open in 2017 and, having bogeyed five of his first six holes at Birkdale, it was Fitzgerald who famously helped to get him back on track.

 

The caddie’s reminder – “You’re Rory f***ing McIlroy, what are you doing?” –prompted the soon-to-be World No. 1 to shoot a 71 and, with four holes to play on Sunday, get within four shots of Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar.

But two days later, after four majors and 26 titles, they had split and Harry Diamond had stepped in on a short-term basis. Two and a half years later they are still together.

But now in a fascinating interview with the Irish Independent McIlroy has revealed that he knew that this would be his and Fitzgerald’s last tournament together.

“I knew before [Birkdale] it was going to be his last week,” he says, “and because I knew it, it was almost the reason I gave the media that nugget about what he did for me (the “You’re Rory McIlroy!” line). So that’s where that came from – almost a guilty conscience – knowing what was coming.”

There was a lot going on in McIlroy’s world in 2017 having cracked a rib ahead of the South Africa Open in January, moved to TaylorMade in May and then missed the cut by bundles at the US Open.

Things also weren’t clicking and things had become a little stale after nine years together.

“I don’t want to throw him under the bus but there were a few things that happened in ’17,” he adds. “I think both people in a relationship like that can get complacent and I think there was a bit of complacency so I decided after the Masters it was probably time. I was getting very hard on him. Really hard. Really angry.

“It was partly to do with him and mostly to do with me. I wasn’t playing the best and was frustrated at myself and taking it out on him. And whether that was [related] to a club I’d hit or wanted to hit or … but it was not good. And it’s something I would never do with Harry. Never.”

McIlroy is now less “pig-headed” and stubborn and with age comes maturity, and a player who seems set for some of his best days on the course. Fitzgerald meanwhile has resurfaced with Victor Perez and has helped him to a win in the Dunhill Links which could see him join McIlroy on this year’s Ryder Cup team.

As for the slow start at Birkdale we can blame Mark O’Meara for that.

“I was playing in the afternoon at two or whatever it was, but I woke up at seven, turned on the golf, (laughs) and the first shot I saw on TV was Mark O’Meara hitting it out of bounds,” McIlroy explains. “I was like, ‘Jeez! That’s not a great tee shot!’ I probably watched about two or three hours of the coverage that morning. ‘Jeez! I never thought of missing it there’, ‘Jeez! There’s a bunker there?’, ‘Phhh! It looks tough out there.’ And it put me in a very defensive mindset.”

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