COMMENTARY | May is a weird month for Rory McIlroy.
It's the month that marked his first PGA Tour win in 2010, taking the Wells Fargo Championship after making the cut at Quail Hollow on the number.
It's the month that, until last week, marked the near-annual dismantling of his confidence at The Players Championship. He had never made the cut in three previous appearances there, much less broken par at The Stadium Course before doing both in a T-8 effort last week.
It's the month that McIlroy flails at the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, played at the Wentworth Club in England, which is almost as prickly to the Ulsterman as Sawgrass.
It's also the month where it was revealed the world No. 2 will be changing representation again. The Irish Independent reported on Friday, and it was confirmed by the Associated Press later that day, that McIlroy would be shedding Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management after 18 months with the firm to form his own management team headed by his father, Gerry, and other close friends and associates.
The move is a baffling one, considering McIlroy was able to curry as much attention as he wanted -- nay, required -- as a now-two-time major champion and former world No. 1. Horizon's head man Conor Ridge nailed down a reported nine-figure endorsement deal with Nike Golf last year, as well as solid accessory deals with watchmaker Omega, replacing deals with Titleist, Oakley Golf and Audemars Piguet. He added a deal with sound equipment maker Bose, all the while keeping McIlroy's bag uncluttered of logos.
Apparently that wasn't enough for McIlroy, or maybe those were the wrong deals in his eyes. The underlying reasons aren't entirely clear yet, but the decision certainly is: time to move on.
Perhaps as McIlroy is finding his game, he feels he is finding the voice for his brand. And he's also found that voice doesn't line up with the song his representation has been singing.
The decision comes as it seems McIlroy is in line for his best May ever as a professional. He was in the thick of it at Quail Hollow again and would have won were it not for a petulant putter. He made the cut at Sawgrass for the first time, though he was never much of a figure in the weekend saga starring Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia despite his position on the final leaderboard. He has a score to settle next week in the European Tour's flagship event after missing the cut -- the second in a string of three -- there last year.
Throw in the Memorial Tournament in a few weeks, however, and McIlroy is in for a busy stretch leading into the U.S. Open at Merion. It's a docket he said last December that doesn't really work for him.
"I guess in the middle of the season, as well, you're playing quite a lot of golf, and I've sort of figured out that that doesn't really work for me, and I've got to maybe schedule a little bit better and space out my tournaments a little bit so that I'm fresh and I'm ready to play every single week," McIlroy told me in a teleconference as he accepted the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award.
Even if he played in fewer tournaments, McIlroy has plenty of sponsor commitments on his schedule. Add in spending time with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, and carving out the time to prepare as he would like is a tough task.
It might seem like odd timing to make such a change, but consider May is the last major-less month until September, with one major in each of the next three months. And they'll be held at three places McIlroy has never seen. Maybe it's better to make a move he's never made before he strolls blindly into the closing three majors in hopes of taking at least one for a third-straight year.
"They're going to be three new experiences for me, three new courses, and I've just got to try and prepare for them as best as I can," McIlroy said last December.
McIlroy has said he is taking a more business-like approach inside the ropes in an effort to win as many tournaments possible. Apparently he's going to take a more family-like approach to his business outside the ropes.
In a New York Times piece this month about his burgeoning brand, McIlroy made a prescient statement: "I have to remember what got me this far."
That was the support of his family, including his father-slash-agent, and the hard work he put into becoming one of the world's best at such a young age. The question is whether or not relying on what has gotten the 24-year-old this far will be as instrumental in helping him get where he wants to be. McIlroy doesn't seem to know for sure.
"What we're dealing with and what's going on in my life now is new to everyone around me, and it's a learning experience and it's a learning curve and you learn every day," McIlroy said in the Times piece. "If we weren't learning and we weren't making mistakes, then there would be something wrong."
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Follow him on Twitter @RyanBallengee.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rory McIlroy
- PGA Tour