Fitzgerald's quiet dignity a crucial part of Rory's surge towards domination
Published 13/08/2014 | 00:00
As we sit back and behold this phase of sporting life - now known as the McIlroy Era for as ever long McIlroy sees fit to rule golf - there is one man who deserves special plaudits exactly because he would likely turn them down.
So much has changed for Rory McIlroy since 2008, bar the man carrying his bag. It is satisfying that JP Fitzgerald was the one who was first to greet McIlroy (right) after the short par putt on 18 at Valhalla, when McIlroy, with that cold-blooded stare, stalked down that vaunted leaderboard on the back nine. Deserved even.
I am an outsider to golf but I've always had the sense that McIlroy possessed within him something like perfection in terms of playing his sport. It seems he has spent much of the seven years since turning pro as a scientist, trying to balance the various aspects of his life both inside and outside golf - his personal life, financial situation, fame - in order to draw out that perfection.
He has ripped up the script many times, but he has always stood beside JP. What is it about JP? He is Sphinx-like behind his aviator shades. His comments to the media rarely give much away. He carries his bag wide. He often seems ready with a wry word.
Of course, he pulled that three-wood from his bag on the tenth in Augusta on 2011. Months later, McIlroy felt the need to publicly defend him after criticism from golf pundit Jay Townsend. Possibly because McIlroy was younger, it was an unusual thing to see. But it was evidence of a strong bond.
When things were really bad, a caddy swap must have seemed like the most obvious solution to McIlroy's golfing woes.
But he stuck with JP. Whatever it is about him. He caddied for Paul McGinley when he made the winning putt at The Belfry at 2002. He gave up caddying for Darren Clarke in 2004 because he didn't want to lose a friend.
There's a quiet nobility there that informs what golf writer John Hopkins declared on the show as "golf's new Edwardian age".