Rory McIlroy has axed caddie JP Fitzgerald just 11 days after praising him for turning around his fortunes at The Open, it was reported today.
The pair have been together for nine years, in which time they have won four Majors and 22 professional titles in total.
McIlroy had hailed his bag man for “taking me from 200 in the world to Major champion” and praised him again following a rollercoaster opening round at Royal Birkdale. After dropping five shots in the opening six holes, Fitzgerald told his boss: “You’re Rory McIlroy, what the f*** are you doing?”
It transformed the round, after which McIlroy, who finished fourth, said: “It helped. He reminded me who I was.”
The split was reported by Reuters today from an unnamed source familiar with the matter. Despite Fitzgerald’s intervention at The Open, that would appear to be their last tournament together.
It has been a lucrative partnership with Fitzgerald alone earning more than £1million from his share of McIlroy’s prize money leading up to The Open. This morning, the McIlroy camp did not respond to calls or emails from Standard Sport on the issue, although the golfer is expected to confirm the parting of ways at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, when he appears before the world’s media this week.
McIlroy tees off this week at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, with reports suggesting his friend Harry Diamond will take on the bag in a temporary role while he seeks a replacement.
It has been a mixed 2017 for McIlroy. While he boasts two top-10 finishes in the Majors — he was seventh at the Masters — he missed the cut at the US Open. Prior to The Open, he had missed the three previous cuts.
And it is nearly a year since he last celebrated victory, at last season’s Tour Championship, leading him to describe his season to date as “transitional”. Among the favourites to take over the role are Joe LaCava, despite him having previously pledged his allegiance to Tiger Woods as he battles his way back to form and fitness, Lee Westwood’s long-term caddie Billy Foster, and Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay, who was Phil Mickelson’s bag man for 25 years.