Love-in for Rory McIlroy and Chubby after split
The show must go on and it did so here at the HSBC WGC Champions yesterday with Rory McIlroy and Chubby Chandler seemingly as tight a double act as ever.
The major winner and the agent had not seen each other since the former shocked golf by dumping the latter a fortnight ago, but their reunion was less daggers at dawn and more friends reunited.
The pair bumped into each other on the range here at the Sheshan International course, where McIlroy was preparing for the event which tees off tomorrow. In slightly surreal scenes, their meeting was "papped" for posterity. "We've both already moved on," said Chandler, yesterday. "We shared a laugh and a couple of jokes, had a chat and were fine, just like I knew we would be. I wish Rory nothing but the best."
Chandler congratulated McIlroy on his win at the Shanghai Masters last Sunday. The largest first prize in golf – £1.25m – would have represented a substantial percentage in golf for International Sports Management, but instead the spoils (somewhere approaching £100,000) went to McIlroy's new agency, Horizon. Yesterday, Conor Ridge, the proud owner of the burgeoning Dublin firm, was here watching McIlroy alongside the world No 1.
No, not Luke Donald (at home in America awaiting the birth of his second daughter) but Caroline Wozniacki, the tennis-playing Dane who flew in to join her boyfriend. This is the first time the Dane has been to an event to support her beau and must have found the experience bizarre. After watching McIlroy chip and putt she accompanied him to the glitzy launch in the city centre, which saw McIlroy, Lee Westwood and others dancing with dragons.
With the World Golf Championship prefix, the Chinese are pulling out all the stops at what they call the "Asian major". Except they refused to meet the appearance-fee demands of certain Americans, such as Phil Mickelson, who thus stayed away. Neither would they have come up with the $2.75m Tiger Woods would have asked for, should he have qualified. The top five American players – Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson – have chosen not to come, meaning the inevitable strengthening of stereotype of the insular golfing nation that does not like to leave its comfortable fairway.
"This should be treated as the rest [of the WGC events]," said Thomas Bjorn. "It's a world-class field on a fantastic golf course. There's a couple of players missing, but not too many. This event has everything it needs. It showcases the game in this part of the world. And this is where the future is lying financially for golf."