Saturday 17 March 2018

'I was getting very hard on him on the golf course ' - Rory McIlroy opens up about split from caddie JP Fitzgerald

Rory McIlroy and JP Fitzgerald at Augusta
Rory McIlroy and JP Fitzgerald at Augusta
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

World number four Rory McIlroy believes that he and JP Fitzgerald can end their player-caddy relationship with their heads held high and he took the decision to split from him to save their friendship.

When the duo struck up a partnership in 2008, McIlroy was struggling to hold on to his European tour card and despite beginning with three missed cuts, they went on to be hugely successful.

McIlroy has won four major titles along with a number of other huge accolades including the the Ryder Cyp, three Race to Dubai titles and the FedEx Cup crown last year.

McIlroy's life-long friend Harry Diamond, who was also the best man at his wedding, will be on his bag this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Fireatone and for the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow next week and refused to rule out keeping him on beyond the next fortnight.

McIlroy confirmed the split that was circulated globally at the start of the week.

"It's a big change. JP has been a huge part of my life for the last decade. We started in July 2008 and went all the way to July this year," he said.

"(We had) a lot of great times on and off the golf course and 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's sort of the decision I came to in the end.

"I was getting very hard on him on the golf course.

"I don't want to treat anyone like that, but sometimes this game drives you to that.

"I felt  like it was the right thing to do and I didn't think there was a good time to do it. It was a really tough decision to make.

"I thought 'I'm coming to Firestone, I've got four round to get to know someone or get used to having someone else on my bag coming into the last major of the year'... and that's really it.

"I thank JP for everything, JP knows what I think of him, how much he means to me and how much we've achieved together and it wasn't an easy decision but at the end of that day I felt it was a decision I needed to make.

"I got to the point where if I didn't make a good shot or if I made a wrong decision, I was getting more frustrated at him than I was at myself. I'd much rather be angry at myself than being angry at him."

McIlroy left the door open on a possible reunion with Fitzgerald.

"There is nothing to say that JP and I won't work together again. Right now, I just felt like I needed a little bit of a change," he added.

"I hate the term 'fired' or 'sacked' or 'axed' because that is definitely not what it was.

"I just needed to mix things up and JP understood that and we're still all good."

Asked if there was a catalyst for his decision, he said: "Player-caddy relationships have their ups and downs.

"There were probably just a few too many of those over the past year or so.

"It wasn't a certain moment, I just like it was a build-up of stuff that I felt like I needed this change."

McIlroy admits that he has liked having more responsibility over his game with Diamond acting as his caddy.

"I have enjoyed the last couple of days of carrying a yardage book, doing my own numbers and pacing stuff out, Really getting into the shot. Something I haven't done for a few years."

On his decision to choose Diamond, he added: "I needed someone who knew me and that's why I took Harry for these couple of weeks and we'll see how it goes."

McIlroy won his first WGC event at Firestone Country Club in 2014 in between major triumphs in the Open at Royal Liverpool and the US PGA at Valhalla.

But he was unable to defend the WGC title due to an ankle injury suffered while playing football, and opted to contest the French Open last year when the two events clashed in a congested summer schedule caused by the Rio Olympics.

A rib injury suffered during equipment testing over the winter has restricted McIlroy to 11 events in 2017, but he has won twice at US PGA venue Quail Hollow and holds the course record at the venue.

"There's been decent results in there but decent results right now isn't good enough," he said of his season so far. "I'm expected to win and I expect more of myself also.

"With how I play around these courses it could, not save my season, but shoot me back into a place where I feel like I belong."

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