Report: Rory McIlroy splits with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald

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Report: Rory McIlroy splits with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald

PGA Tour

Report: Rory McIlroy splits with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald

Another month, another high-profile player-caddie split. This time, it’s Rory McIlroy and his longtime caddie J.P. Fitzgerald.

According to a Reuters report, McIlroy and Fitzgerald have parted ways after nine years and four major championships together. McIlroy’s management has not confirmed the breakup, but McIlroy is expected to address the matter at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Of course, this news comes just two weeks after McIlroy tied for fourth at the British Open at Royal Birkdale. It was after the first round that McIlroy credited Fitzgerald with inspiring him following a 4-over start through five holes.

“I was nervous going out,” McIlroy said then. “I was a little anxious, timid. Probably just not as much belief in myself as I should have had. J.P. gave me a good talking on the sixth tee box, and sort of reminded me of who I was.

“He said: ‘You’re Rory McIlroy: What the (expletive) are you doing?’
“It definitely helped. It kept me positive. He did a great job.”

The split doesn’t come as a total surprise, however. Fitzgerald has had his critics throughout nearly his entire nine years with McIlroy. In 2011, BBC analyst Jay Townsend took a shot at Fitzgerald during that summer’s Irish Open, saying McIlroy’s course management was poor and that McIlroy should hire Steve Williams as his caddie. Townsend had previously been critical of Fitzgerald after McIlroy’s collapse at the 2011 Masters.

“Shut up … You’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!” McIlroy tweeted at Townsend.

McIlroy continued to defend his caddie following Townsend’s string of comments.

“I’ve got to stand up for my caddie,” McIlroy said then. “J.P. is one of my closest friends, and I’ve had to deal with it for three years and not really say anything and he’s just kept at him and at him. I just had to say something.

“You know, it’s unfortunate that some people are so opinionated. It started in Switzerland back in 2008. J.P. has taken me from 200th in the world to major champion and now fourth in the world. I don’t know what it is about Jay or if he has something against J.P. but some of the criticism that J.P. takes from him is very unfair.”

Then a Golf Digest story prior to this year’s Masters included some candid thoughts from players, caddies and coaches:

  • “Rory is an in-and-out chipper, and his clubbing is suspect at times. How often do you see him and (caddie J.P. Fitzgerald) looking at each other in shock after his ball has finished 20 yards over the back?”
  • “If you listen to them on the course, you often hear Rory asking, ‘What happened there?’ More than once I’ve heard J.P. saying something like, ‘OK, hit a soft draw with a 6-iron off that tree.’ And I’ve immediately thought, This ball is going over the green. And sure enough, it does. So you have to wonder. I see Rory up close only occasionally, and I know he’s going to hit the ball over the green when his caddie clearly doesn’t. It makes no sense.”
  • “Why he doesn’t employ Billy Foster is a mystery. Rory would have 10 majors by now if he did. Of course, we know what Rory is like. He’s as stubborn as anyone on tour. The more people tell him that J.P. is not the right caddie for him, the more he’ll keep him on.”

This is the second big player-caddie split in as many months. Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay parted ways in June after 25 years together.

There is no word on who McIlroy’s new caddie will be.

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