Rory McIlroy has gone his separate ways with long-time caddie JP Fitzgerald, the World No. 4 has confirmed.
The news broke on Monday when news agency Reuters cited a source close to McIlroy, and while European Tour caddie Steve Brotherhood confirmed the news to NCG later that day, the player himself did not comment on the matter until he spoke to the press on Wednesday ahead of the WGC-Bridgetone Invitational.
“It’s a big change. JP has been a huge part of my life for the past decade.
“A lot of great times on and off the golf course. I still consider JP one of my best friends, one of my closest friends. But sometimes to preserve a personal relationship, you might have to sacrifice a professional one. And that was the decision I came to in the end.
“I was getting very hard on him on the golf course. And I didn’t want to treat him like that. I don’t want to treat anyone like that. But sometimes this game drives you to that.
“It got to the point where if I didn’t play a good shot or made a wrong decision I was getting more frustrated with him than myself.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do. I don’t think there is ever a good time to do it. It was a really tough decision to make.
“There’s nothing to say JP won’t work with me again at some point, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. It was a really tough decision.
“I hate the term fired or axed, it definitely wasn’t what it was. I changed my path a little bit but it was just a build-up of stuff, I felt I needed to make that change.”
McIlroy’s best friend and the bookies’ favourite for the job on a full-time basis, Harry Diamond, will be on his bag in Akron and at next week’s PGA Championship, the 28-year-old’s last chance to prevent a three-year run without a major.
The pair have known each other since childhood, but McIlroy said no long-term decision has been made yet.
“I just needed someone that knew me and that’s why I took Harry for the next couple of weeks,” he said.
“If something doesn’t work out and Harry and I say two weeks is enough I’ll need to find someone else but I’ve got 10 days between the end of the PGA and the start of the Northern Trust to do that.”
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McIlroy and Fitzgerald had been together for nine years after teaming up shortly after the Northern Irishman turned professional.
Together they won four major championships – the 2011 US Open, the 2012 PGA Championship, and the 2014 Open and PGA Championship – as well as two World Golf Championships, three PGA Tour titles and four European Tour titles. McIlroy also also finished top of the PGA Tour money list in 2012 and 2014, and won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Following the Open, NCG editor Dan Murphy wrote that it was time for McIlroy to seek new blood on the bag.
McIlroy had thanked Fitzgerald for a “great job” and for “jolting [him] into gear” after a poor start at Royal Birkdale. That would prove to be his swansong as McIlroy’s bagman.
After a 1-over 71 in the opening round, McIlroy, the 2014 Open champion, recovered and went on to briefly flirt with a title push. He finished in a tie for 4th.
In 2011, McIlroy said of Fitzgerald: “He has taken me from 200 in the world to major champion.”
Last month, Forbes listed McIlroy in sixth place on their latest list of highest-earning sports stars, with a wealth of $50 million, $16m of which is made up of earnings, and $34m endorsements. Forbes estimate that Fitzgerald made $1.65m from his cut of McIlroy’s prize money over the 12 months to June this year.
The news follows last month’s surprise announcement that Phil Mickelson and Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay had gone their separate ways after 25 years together. Mackay is now an announcer for the Golf Channel while Mickelson’s brother Tim has taken up bag duties for the five-time major champion.