Sport Golf

Monday 19 February 2018

Clean-cut McIlroy's split with Chandler inevitable

Dermot Gilleece

WHAT was perhaps never anything more than a pragmatic business arrangement came to an abrupt end when Rory McIlroy decided to sever his ties with Chubby Chandler's high-profile International Sports Management (ISM) agency and sign up with Dublin-based Horizon Sports.

McIlroy joined ISM four years ago as a natural consequence of adopting Darren Clarke as his mentor.

But the clean-cut youngster has been looking increasingly out of place in an organisation which seemed to thrive on a beer-swilling, big-spending image, as characterised by Clarke.

With the signing of world No 3 McIlroy, Horizon Sports is set to become a leading player in the sphere of golf management. The challenge now for the Irish agency is to retain the intimacy which made it so appealing in the first place.

As McIlroy's former representatives, ISM attempted to come to terms yesterday with the departure of their prime asset, one reason being floated in golf circles was that the Manchester company had become a victim of its own success.

Indeed the current issue of Golf Digest Ireland carries a front-page picture of Chandler, describing him as 'Golf's New Kingmaker'.

A recent spate of such pieces, prompted McIlroy to describe Chandler as a "celebrity manager".

"I thought that was an odd thing to say," Chandler told Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail.

Leading players talk to each other about their craft, especially if they happen to be close friends. And it is inconceivable that in their many hours together over the last few years, when they became Ryder Cup and World Cup partners, McIlroy and Graeme McDowell didn't talk about their management situations. And given the closeness of their respective fathers, Gerry and Kenny, one imagines they, too, would have discussed such matters.

In the immediate aftermath of McIlroy's magnificent triumph in the US Open at Congressional in June, a burning question was whether commissioner Tim Finchem could entice McIlroy back onto the PGA Tour. Chandler left us in no doubt on the matter. "The number will have to be reduced if they want Rory," he said, referring to the 15-tournament requirement.

Yet less than two months later, we were informed that McIlroy would, in fact, be plying his craft as a US tour member next year.

And significantly, this time the announcement came directly from the player himself.

Horizon's founder, Conor Ridge, made a huge breakthrough four years ago by signing McDowell, who had been with ISM since turning pro in early summer 2002. England's Ross Fisher also became a client.

Then came Irish Open winner, Shane Lowry, while an original client, Michael Hoey, joined the front rank of European professionals with a splendid win in the Dunhill Links Championship this month.

Though Chandler expressed his surprise at the suddenness of McIlroy's decision, it has been on the cards for some time now.

And we can take it that the deal with Horizon will be very similar to that enjoyed by McDowell, with the player having much greater control over key career details.

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