My head is going to explode trying to keep track of all the cat fights in pro golf, though it is proving what I have learned out here covering the Tour: it’s worse than a sorority and guys are bitchier than women! You’ve been getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the circus, so welcome to the show, folks!
You are all familiar with the Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia feud that reared its racial head on Tuesday night, but that’s not the only drama making headlines at this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth — the European Tour’s version of The Players. Good friends Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell let their personal differences over their management company, Horizon Sports, play out in the media. Thankfully, they’ve made up.
Let’s catch up on this inside-golf saga.
Last week, news broke that Rory was leaving his current management firm, and starting his own company. Rory joined Horizon near the end of the season in 2011 after leaving ISM and Chubby Chandler. It was thought that GMac played a big role with signing Rory to Horizon because of their close friendship.
While Rory denied rumors of his split with Horizon on Sunday at The Players, he implied at Wentworth today that he can’t comment on the situation because of contractual reasons. (FWIW, I was asking another player about Rory and his management at Quail Hollow. It was news to him, of course, but the following week he had lunch with Rory and said, “I’ve heard there’ve been rumors about your management situation.” Rory said he knew. I asked if he said anything else and the player mumbled that Rory didn’t elaborate but he thinks he can’t talk about it. So, there you go.)
Meanwhile, McDowell, who ended up winning the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria, basically reported that Rory was indeed breaking up with Horizon, and in defense of the company, he implied Rory was misplacing the blame for his poor play, saying, “I’m pretty sure the management company wasn’t giving him golf lessons.”
“He’s had a phenomenal 18 months, signing the biggest deal in golf at the end of last year Business-wise, the guy’s in the best shape he’s ever been in his life. His golf struggled early in the season, for whatever reason.
“I’m pretty sure the management company weren’t giving him golf lessons or caddying for him or telling him how to play. That’s kind of his own deal.
“But sometimes when we’re not on our game, we have a tendency to, I’m not going to say make wrong decisions, but we have a tendency to question everything in our lives that we are doing and sometimes we have to make changes.
“Do I feel partly responsible for him being at Horizon Sports, of course, but Rory’s avery intelligent kid and he’s had a phenomenal 18 months to two years with Horizon.
“You can’t knock his results and you can’t knock the job Horizon have done for him as regards ‘Brand Rory’; the partnerships he got off the golf course; the money he’s making off the golf course.
“It’s a high-stakes, high-pressure scenario and something has got to give now and again. It’s disappointing.”
On the other hand, Lee Westwood provided a different take and supported Rory’s move.
“When Rory first left Chubby [Chandler, ISM chief executive], I thought he should have gone off on his own,” Westwood told the Daily Mail. “He’s such a big brand now that it sells itself. I said to him, ‘I don’t think you really need anybody other than a couple of good people in place.’ He’s going to sell himself for the next 20 years.
“I think he is doing the right thing,” Westwood said about McIlroy, whom he termed “lonely” since his game began going sideways. “His dad should be able to give an unaffected opinion. I still ask my parents advice on a lot of things; they’re not involved financially and can give an unclouded judgmentAnd I believe Rory has the capability to win 10 majors.”
Then, reporters approached Rory to ask him about the Horizon drama after a practice session at Wentworth and he shot back at GMac. Via The Guardian:
“Ask G-Mac, he knows more than me,” said the 24-year-old, clearly referring to frank but considered comments by McDowell last Friday and Saturday at the Volvo World Match Play Championships in Bulgaria.
Handbags officially thrown! You’re up, GMac.
“Well listen, it’s not my problem,” said McDowell.
“It’s his problem. I’ll speak to Rory later and we’ll have a conversation.
“I’m very sorry he feels that way. I was in contact with him over the weekend explaining my scenario and the predicament he and Horizon both put me in because, obviously, they have things to sort out themselves.”
Okay, that’s translation for “time to extend the olive branch and mend our differences privately like grown ups, instead of children on a playground.”
“I spoke to Graeme on Tuesday afternoon,” McIlroy said. “We got back to the hotel and had a good chat. Everything is good. I am great friends with Graeme. He has been like a big brother to me on tour. I remember playing practice rounds with him at the Dunhill Links, for example, back in 2007, when I got my card. He really showed me the ropes out here for a couple of years; it’s great to have friends on tour and he is obviously somebody that I consider a very good friend.”
Okay, great, hugs for everyone! Now what’s the deal with Horizon?
“I can’t really comment on it,” McIlroy said. “I don’t want to get myself in a position I don’t want to be in. The truth will all come out one day and I guess you’ll just have to be patient. I can’t comment on speculation at this point. You guys [the media] know that something is up, that’s fair enough, but at this point I can’t really say much more.”
But Rory remains adamant that the drama with his business affairs isn’t negatively impacting his work product.
Via Irish Golf Desk:
Asked if the headlines had been a distraction or if he felt a sense of frustation about the speculation, McIlroy said: “No, not at all. Someone very smart said to me a couple of weeks ago, if you want to be in the circus, you have to put up with the clowns.
“It’s just the way it is.”
“I thought it was quite a good comment. Something someone very smart told me a couple of days ago.
Q. Is it in relation to the management or—
RORY McILROY: No, it’s just – think about it. Just think about it.”
It’s all part of the deal — something Rory has always understood and dealt with respectfully.
Well, clearly Rory is leaving Horizon, but it’s not 100% clear what his plans are going forward — whether it’s starting his own firm or signing with another agent, say, Mark Steinberg.
I’m just glad Rory and GMac have talked it out and remain good pals. Money and friends is a messy business now, isn’t it?