Aside from being the year of the young guns 2017 has also been the Year of the Surprise Break Up – Rory and JP Fitzgerald, Jason Day and Colin Swatton (as his caddie), Phil Mickelson and Bones, Sergio and TaylorMade even – now we can add, officially, Lee Westwood and Chubby Chandler to the list.
Bizarrely it is the latter one of player-agent, a partnership that lasted 24 years, which almost comes as the biggest surprise. The news first broke on the eve of the Scottish Open that Chandler and his company International Sports Management would no longer be representing the Englishman with Chubby explaining that Westwood, one of his first signings, had ‘decided to go down a different path’.
That path will be with IMG.
In an interview with Golf World Chandler explained that things are now official.
“Lee and I concluded the legal stuff. Everything that has to be signed has now been signed. A short statement is all that will be said publicly about that. There is a confidentiality agreement in place. Now we all start again.”
The reason behind the fall-out is yet to emerge, a legal dispute between the golfer and the ISM agency was reported in July, and Westwood’s departure will be a huge blow, both on a professional and personal basis. Chandler likened it to ‘a divorce’.
Go to any tour event and the pair are never far apart, their friendship and chemistry were always obvious and they have even owned several horses together. Chandler added that, historically, he probably spent too much time solely with Westwood and Darren Clarke.
The Northern Irishman is staying with the Manchester-based company. Danny Willett and Ryan Fox have also left in recent months to leave Chandler with the likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Joost Luiten, Peter Uihlein, George Coetzee and Matt Wallace as his star names.
Previously Chandler represented Rory McIlroy and he was part of a stellar year in 2011 when Charl Schwartzel, McIlroy and Clarke, all ISM clients at the time, won the year’s first three majors. The ‘Chubby Slam’ was undone by Keegan Bradley. Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell are other former stablemates.
“There has been an emotional aspect to all that has happened. It has been tough. I’ve sat on the edge of my bed a few times and wondered what the hell is going on. But we all react to different situations in different ways. Lee has taken decisions in the way he sees fit. And I’m fine with that. I wish him well and we all move on.”
Of the Willett split he added: “We had one meeting with Danny where we decided to give it to the end of the year to see how things were going. Then we had another where I came away thinking it wasn’t going to work. Once the feeling isn’t right, things are never going to work.
“I realised we weren’t talking to each other much. There was no input into what was going on. So while I’m sad and don’t think he has made the right decision, I respect the fact that he has made that decision.”
Despite the shock departures Chandler is always one to look forward and, on next year’s Challenge Tour, he has played a part in bringing in a ‘par is your friend’ type tournament where, in an attempt to speed up the game, putts for par won’t even take place. There will be two points for a birdie, five for an eagle, eight for an albatross and there will be double points for holing from off the green and all points will double on the last three holes.
“It won’t just be that par doesn’t count. The players will be banned from putting out once they haven’t made a birdie,” Chandler said. “That way they will all be round in three hours.
“Everybody is in with a chance right to the end. That might all turn out wrong. But it could also be really exciting. We’ll see. We’re not changing the game that much. We’re just making it quicker and getting rid of the dull bits. No one really gives a bleep about eight-footers for par.”