Rory McIlroy has split with long-term caddie JP Fitzgerald. The nine-year relationship between the pair ended following last month’s 2017 Open Championship.
Fitzgerald, a fellow Irishman and a former caddie for Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke had been on the bag of McIlroy for nine years—including major victories in the 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships and 2014 Open Championship. The pair also won a further 18 tournaments across the globe together.
But Fitzgerald’s time with McIlroy is over after the Northern Irishman decided it was time for a change. He is now looking to rediscover his best form after a year of rollercoaster performances amid a new equipment deal with TaylorMade.
Ironically, McIlroy praised Fitzgerald for keeping his Open hopes alive at Royal Birkdale during the opening round after starting the opening six holes in five-over par. However, insiders allegedly claim a wrong club selection during the last round was the final straw of the relationship between the pair.
“JP did a great job,” McIlroy said after that opening round, which was resurrected to end one-over par. “He kept me positive out there and that was very much appreciated.”
McIlroy still finished fourth in the Open but was a distance behind winner Jordan Spieth, who joined him as a winner of four majors and also three of the four legs of the Grand Slam.
It is expected that close friend Harry Diamond—who was reportedly best man for McIlroy at his wedding earlier this year—will take over bag duties for both the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship over the next two weeks.
Diamond is no stranger to caddying for McIlroy. In fact, he caddied for the former world number one at the Irish Open and during his debut season on the European Tour. He could prove to be a permanent solution should things go well in the WGC Bridgestone and US PGA Championship—the latter being the last of this year’s four majors.
If not, there will be no shortage of bagmen interested in teaming up with McIlroy, whose split with Fitzgerald comes just months after Phil Mickelson called time on his partnership with Jim “Bones” Mackay. The pair had worked together for 25 years before going their separate ways.
Mackay could be an option for McIlroy, with the American knowing just how to get the job done on course following much success by Mickelson’s side.
Joe LaCava is another with a wealth of experience having worked for Fred Couples, Dustin Johnson and, more recently, Tiger Woods. It is Woods’ continued absence from the game with injury that could free up LaCava to work with McIlroy.
Woods himself changed a successful player-caddie partnership when parting ways with Steve Williams following an alleged fallout between the pair in 2011. Williams, who was New Zealand’s highest-earning sportsman at the time, has since formed a winning relationship with Adam Scott.
Bust-ups on course
There have been bust-ups on course too. Robert Allenby sacked his caddie mid-round and Martin Gray walked off course during a round following a row with Seve Ballesteros. Ian Woosnam’s caddie, on the other hand, famously added one too many clubs to the bag before the final round of the Open, effectively harming his chances of lifting the Claret Jug.
See also: Tiger Woods’ Top Ten Greatest Moments