Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Rory McIlroy showing that he means big business

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy has just made the biggest and, almost certainly, the brightest decision of his four years as a professional golfer.

Quitting management company ISM stands out as an act of true clarity by McIlroy amid recent chaos and controversy in his career.

It must have been excruciatingly difficult for the 22-year-old to look his agent, long-time friend and mentor Chubby Chandler in the eye last Wednesday evening in New York and sever their ties.

But thank goodness somebody in this relationship was mature enough to see it was going down the pan.

Since the news of their parting broke last Friday, the silence from McIlroy and his new management team at Dublin firm Horizon Sports has been deafening.

The only communication from Horizon or McIlroy was a bland statement issued on the player’s behalf through a PR Agency. Discretion, it seems, is the new order of the day. The re-branding of Rory McIlroy has already begun.

Over the weekend, a “shocked” Chandler regaled the English golf media with his side of the story. Going into ostrich-mode, he stretched the credibility of all but the ignorant and ill-informed with some of the ‘reasons’ he offered for McIlroy’s departure.

Could anything be more pathetic than quotation: “I don’t know whether it was his girlfriend (Denmark’s World No 1 tennis player Caroline (Wozniacki) getting in his ear or someone else but I thought we were doing a pretty good job, to be honest, and I think that’s how the outside world saw it.”

ISM’s relationship with Rory McIlroy had been careening out of control long before he met Miss Wozniacki.

Their abject failure to draw-up with McIlroy a coherent, long-term career plan led directly to the Ulsterman’s ludicrous on, off and on-again courtship with the US PGA Tour in recent years.

There are several reasons why McIlroy, the hero of Congressional last June; hailed as golf’s most naturally gifted player and a worthy champion for Haiti’s earthquake victims, should four months later be the subject of so much negative publicity. And they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with Caroline Wozniacki.

Instead, the responsibility lies with McIlroy himself and a management company so fearful of losing its biggest bread-winner, it was unwilling or unable to offer firm guidance when it was so plainly required.

Laying his hands on the US Open trophy didn’t invest McIlroy with any special wisdom. He remains as hot-headed, impetuous and impatient as any other 22-year-old male in the country except the whole world tunes into his tantrums.

Winning a first Major title compounds the weight of expectation and infinitely increases the already-intense pressure to perform. Look how Darren Clarke, a vastly-experienced 42-year-old professional, has struggled for form in the wake of his Open victory at Sandwich.

The laissez faire approach of Chandler and his team at ISM had been the last thing McIlroy needed since June as the youngster, struggling to adjust to his new status, staggered from one controversy to the next.

Given his repeated media faux-pas, it’s astonishing that ISM only in recent weeks hired a media consultant ostensibly to offer McIlroy the sort of media advice which high-powered politicians and businessmen take for granted.

Sadly, the unfortunate individual’s first task was to write the press release announcing McIlroy’s departure.

It should be a source of considerable comfort that McIlroy was bright enough to see the writing on the wall and brave enough to do something about it. Like his good friend Graeme McDowell, one suspects a more stable, structured and supportive environment is just over the Horizon.

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