A golfer leaving his agent for another sports management shop is usually the kind of news that barely registers on the golf radar during the season. But when the player jumping ship is Rory McIlroy? Well, let's just say the golf world definitely takes notice.
Following a four-year run with agent Andrew "Chubby" Chandler's International Sports Management group, McIlroy decided to split from Chandler in a shocking move. ISM released a statement on Friday, confirming the news.
"Onward and upwards. We have had a quite brilliant year. The company is growing and adapting to ensure it stays at the forefront of golf and the business of managing players. We wish Rory every success."
McIlroy had been part of Chandler's stable of golfers since 2007, when he made his professional debut, so the two have a long history together. While these moves happen all the time in the sports world, you have to wonder what prompted the Ulsterman to leave ISM for Irish-based Horizon Sports Management (the group already represents Graeme McDowell).
On the surface, Chandler and McIlroy seemed to have a great relationship, but following the news earlier today of their break-up, Alan Shipnuck tweeted that Chandler may have been keeping McIlroy from enjoying himself on the course.
Maybe it comes to this: Chubby, for all his mirth, is a sabre-rattling obstructionist. Rory just wants to play golf/have fun w/less static.
Who knows if that's really the case, but it's clear there's clearly something going on within Chubby's stable of golfers. Ernie Els departed ISM last month for ProsInc, and with McIlroy walking away, the group has now lost two of its biggest names.
McIlroy has yet to release his own statement, but with Graeme McDowell already over at Horizon, maybe the decision to leave was simply so he could join the same management group as one of his best friends. Or maybe the decision to leave ISM had nothing to do with Chandler at all.
Don't forget, McIlroy and current ISM'er Lee Westwood had a dustup on Twitter earlier this year, after McIlroy decided to pass on playing for the Great Britain & Ireland team in the Seve Trophy, before telling Westwood in an exchange: "at least I'm not English." Maybe the move was his way of distancing himself from Westwood.
We'll have to wait and see what McIlroy says in his official statement, but with two big names leaving the group in the last couple of months, it would appear there's something going on behind the scenes at ISM.
- Rory McIlroy