Rory McIlroy parts company with agent ISM and moves to Dublin-based Horizon
THE MOST dramatic year in Rory McIlroy's young life took another twist today when it was announced he was parting company with the International Sports Management stable that includes Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
The 22-year-old US Open champion, currently the world number three, has decided to link up with Ryder Cup partner Graeme McDowell at Dublin-based Horizon.
"I am now keen to move onto the next stage of my career and I feel this will be facilitated by a fresh view and a new structure around me," McIlroy said in a statement.
"Therefore I am delighted to be joining Horizon and I look forward to working with my new team.
"I would like to sincerely thank Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler and his team for their guidance, representation and management over the past four years since turning pro.
"Chubby and his team have played a very important role in my success to date. I have made great progress under their management and for that I will always be grateful."
Chandler was with McIlroy in Bermuda this week for the Grand Slam of Golf, which also featured two more of his clients - Open champion Clarke and Masters winner Charl Schwartzel.
Having lost three-time major winner Ernie Els from the stable only a month ago, Chandler said today: "Onward and upwards. We have had a quite brilliant year.
"The company is growing and adapting to ensure it stays at the forefront of golf and the business of managing players. We wish Rory every success."
The company's statement added: "It has been an honour representing Rory and we take great pride in the role ISM has played in guiding him successfully through his formative years as a professional golfer.
"Under our management he has grown into an international figure and he leaves us as a major champion.
"ISM prides itself on putting the athlete first. In golf this has enabled our players to achieve unprecedented success with Rory joining Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke as a major winner and Lee Westwood at the summit of the world rankings.
"ISM continues to go from strength to strength, its dedicated team of professionals providing our clients with world-class support across the globe.
"We look forward to even more success in the years ahead."
McIlroy, who travelled to Bermuda from China and will be back in Shanghai for the next two weeks, has had Chandler by his side since he joined the paid ranks after winning the silver medal as leading amateur in The Open at Carnoustie four years ago.
He had to wait until the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic for his first professional victory, but last season he broke through on the PGA Tour in America as well, winning the Quail Hollow Championship with a closing 62 two days before his 21st birthday.
He then began The Open at St Andrews with a major record-equalling 63. An 80 followed in windy conditions but, after third-place finishes there and at the USPGA Championship, he found himself centre stage again at The Masters this April.
Three brilliant opening rounds put him four clear, but he then collapsed to a closing 80 and in a traumatic turnaround dropped all the way back to 15th place 10 strokes behind Schwartzel.
Many wondered how long he would carry the scars of that, but then came the US Open at Congressional near Washington, where he broke record after record in winning by eight with a 16-under-par total.
Disappointing finishes of 25th and 64th followed in the last two majors of the season, although at the USPGA Championship he did well to make the cut after injuring his arm hitting a tree root.
By then the youngster was also making headlines off the course, ending a relationship with long-time girlfriend Holly and starting to date tennis world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
McIlroy, who has come third, third and second in his last three European Tour events, also announced he would be rejoining the PGA Tour next season.