Friday 25 May 2018

'It's not you, it's me' - Rory McIlroy says there was no moment that sparked split from JP Fitzgerald

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks ot the media in a press conference during a preview day of the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks ot the media in a press conference during a preview day of the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club
Rory McIlroy pacing out the fairways with his new caddie Harry Diamond ahead of the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

James Corrigan

Rory McIlroy delivered golf's equivalent of "it's not you, it's me" when explaining that he sacked JP Fitzgerald because he was placing too much of the "blame" and -"anger" on his long-time caddie.

The world No 4 turned up for a practice round yesterday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with his best friend, and best man at his recent wedding, Harry Diamond on the bag.

And although he highlighted that the duo could become a fixed item depending on this week and next week's US PGA Championship, the questions inevitably focused on his reasons for dismissing Fitzgerald after nine years and four Major titles together.

McIlroy revealed he did so by phone last Tuesday after the Open at Royal Birkdale.

"Sometimes to preserve a personal relationship you have to sacrifice a professional one," he said. "I was getting very hard on him on the course and I don't want to treat somebody, anybody, like that. I felt like it was the right thing to do and I don't think there was any good time to do it.

Tough

"It was a really tough decision to make, but I thought, 'I'm coming to Firestone, I have four tournament rounds to either get to know someone or get used to having someone else on my bag going into the last major of the year'.

"JP knows how much he means to me and what we've achieved together. I would much rather be angry at myself for making a wrong decision than being angry at him, and that was really why."

McIlroy claimed there was "no particular moment" which prompted the decision - "just a build-up of stuff". But the word among the caddies is that Fitzgerald's error on the 10th tee during the third round of the Open was the last straw.

Fitzgerald, who previously worked for Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, assured his employer that he could not reach the fairway bunker on the dog-leg with a three-iron.

McIlroy duly caught sand and ended up with a double bogey, which fatally derailed his charge.

It is understood that after the round McIlroy was in a fury and certainly, for those in possession of the yardage books, this was viewed as rather more significant than the "you're Rory McIlroy - what the f*** are you doing" pep talk which garnered so many headlines after the golfer's first-round recovery.

"That was just more of a case of giving credit where credit's due," McIlroy said, before revealing that he could one day link up again with Fitzgerald.

"I hate the term fired, or sacked or axed. I changed my path a little bit but maybe in the future that path might come back to where it was."

For now, it will be intriguing to see how he and Diamond fare in Akron, Ohio in a field containing 49 of the world's top 50 players, including Jordan Spieth, the Open champion.

McIlroy actually won the last time he played Firestone, but that was back in his glorious summer of 2014.

McIlroy was seen stepping out his yardages during his practice and declared: "I'm trying to take ownership of my game a bit more and take more responsibility."

But it is clear that Diamond - a former Irish international who is now a successful businessman - is a permanent possibility.

"We'll see how the next two weeks go, but I'm not ruling anything out,'' McIlroy said. "Jeez, if we have a good fortnight, you never know. But that decision will be up to Harry rather than me.

"Obviously he's got his own thing going on back home, but a couple of wins might change things." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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