Who has Rory McIlroy lined up as his next bagman?
Irishman parted ways with JP Fitzgerald and is due to address the issue on Wednesday
Rory McIlroy stands with his former caddie JP Fitzgerald during the third round of the Open Championship. Photograph: Reuters
More than likely, Rory McIlroy has already lined-up his next bagman. Who?
Well, that is the question that will only be answered in the golfer’s own good time, although the Northern Irishman – who has parted ways with his long-time caddie, Dubliner JP Fitzgerald – is due to address the issue on Wednesday ahead of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational tournament at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
Indications are that Belfast businessman Harry Diamond – a former Irish amateur international and one of his closest friends – will carry the bag at Akron, where McIlroy won in 2014, with a permanent caddie in place by next week’s US PGA championship at Quail Hollow, the final Major of the season.
Unlike most vacant job opportunities, there is no advertising of the position, no recruitment agencies. The hiring of a caddie is done quietly, often with a degree of furtiveness. Such a degree of stealth is necessary, if only because this often profitable profession – especially at the elite level –is a closed shop, and where a code of honour exists in the caddie shack.
McIlroy’s bag is unquestionably one of the more lucrative, with “Forbes” estimating Fitzgerald earned $1.65 million in the 12 months from June 2016 to June 2017. Of course, that was a time in which McIlroy scooped the bonus jackpot for the winning the FedEx Cup playoff series on the PGA Tour. Fitzgerald, who numbers Paul McGinley and Ernie Els among his former employers, caddied for McIlroy for nine years during which time his man won four Majors.
Although McIlroy spoke via Skype to a press conference in Boston on Monday promoting the upcoming Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston (formerly the Deutsche Bank, part of the FedEx Cup series) where he will defend his title, there was a block on any caddie-related questions and instead he talked on matters such as potentially shortening the PGA Tour season.
The decision to split with Fitzgerald came as a surprise, as much for its timing at this juncture of the season coming into the Bridgestone and the US PGA.
The breakup also came just a fortnight after McIlroy praised Fitzgerald for his role in getting him focused after a dreadful start to the Open (where McIlroy would finish fourth) and, also, at a time of the year when most of the prized caddies are already contracted.
Nine years is a long relationship for player and caddie, and this parting of the ways comes hot on the heels of the ending of an even longer partnership, that of Phil Mickelson and his caddie Jim “Bones” McKay which ended amicably after 25 years. McKay has since signed a television deal to be an on-course reporter for the “Golf Channel” and NBC which makes it unlikely he will come into the equation in taking over McIlroy’s bag.
However, Tiger Woods’s caddie Joe LaCava – who had a long stint with Fred Couples and a shorter one with Dustin Johnson – is available, given Woods’s enforced absence due to back surgery with no timeline on his return, and would make for an interesting tie-up.
There have been some changing dynamics in the caddie shack in recent times, with world number one Johnson blossoming since employing his brother Austin to do the job as did Tommy Fleetwood when hiring his close friend Ian Finnis.
And, certainly, the advice offered in the heat of battle by Michael Greller – Jordan Spieth’s caddie – in the final round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale only served to underscore the value of a trusted caddie.
McIlroy is set to address the issue when he speaks to media at Akron on Wednesday, the eve of the WGC-Bridgestone where he is in fact the sole Irish player in the field. Shane Lowry’s missed cut in the Canadian Open meant he failed to break into the world’stop-50 (he actually slipped to 80th) and so the Offalyman’s next outing on tour will be at next week’s US PGA at Quail Hollow. Graeme McDowell, who also missed the cut in Canada, has been given a special exemption by the PGA of America in the season’s final Major.
Pádraig Harrington is in action this week in the Barracuda Championship – which runs against the Bridgestone – in Reno-Tahoe, where he is joined by Séamus Power. The Waterford player’s top-10 in Canada moved him up to 126th in the latest FedEx Cup standings but he needs to continue that upward trending as he has only two events left, the Barracuda and the Wyndham, to get into the top-125 who retain their cards.
Leona Maguire, the world number one ranked amateur, and Olivia Mehaffey are both in the field for the Ricoh Women’s British Open which takes place at Kingsbarns in Scotland, starting on Thursday.