Friday 21 July 2017

Lee Westwood leaves Chubby Chandler, manager of 24 years, to join IMG

Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood
Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood

James Corrigan

After 24 years, Lee Westwood has left International Sports Management and split with his manager Chubby Chandler. The former world No 1 is joining IMG.

ISM confirmed the move to Telegraph Sport on Tuesday but declined to comment further. The reasons remain unclear, although it is understood that there is a legal dispute between the golfer and the agency.

The news will cause shockwaves on the range. Along with Darren Clarke, Westwood was one of Chandler’s first signings after he founded the agency in 1991. As Clarke and Westwood rose through the ranks, the duo were often seen with Chandler, who became as much a friend and a confidante as a manager. Clarke remains with ISM.

The closeness between Westwood and Chandler was not just witnessed in golf circles but on racetracks, too. They have owned many horses together, including Hoof It, which won Handicapper of the Year in 2011 following its win in the Stewards’ Cup.

The last few years have witnessed huge change for the 44-year-old. Two years ago, he left his wife, Laurae, the mother to their children, and moved from the family home in Florida. Laurae returned to her native Edinburgh, where Westwood now also resides. He has a new partner in Helen Storey, a fitness consultant from Newcastle. They were pictured together in the Royal Box on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Monday.

Although he is clearly in the twilight of his career, Westwood is still a force in the game. He finished second in last year’s Masters, behind Danny Willett - then a fellow ISM client – and this year has posted seven top 20s, including 10th at the French Open 10 days ago.  Having scaled the rankings in 2010, Westwood is now  57th in the world and, for many, will be the sentimental pick to win next week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale after 11 top-fives in the majors.

Westwood was believed to be shareholder in ISM and his departure is clearly a blow for the Manchester-based company, which remains one of the biggest players in the market, despite losing players of the calibre of Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel and Matt Fitzpatrick. Westwood was clearly one ISM’s marquee names, boasting on-course earnings of approximately£50 million and off-course income estimated to be more than £5 million per year.

Europe’s second is an almost certainty  to be a future Ryder Cup captain, with 2020 his stated year of choice. His main handler at IMG is likely to be the much respected, Guy Kinnings, who is global co-managing director of the golf division. Neither he or Westwood could not be reached for comment.

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