The skinny on the McIlroy, Chubby split

By Jason SobelOctober 21, 2011, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy announced his emergence in the United States in a big way last year, making the cut on the number at the Quail Hollow Championship, then posting scores of 66-62 on the weekend to easily claim his first PGA Tour title.

It was the type of victory that vaults a young up-and-comer into the game’s upper echelon and into the mainstream consciousness of most casual observers. Instead, the Northern Ireland native curiously celebrated by rescinding his PGA Tour membership at season’s end and followed by eschewing the circuit’s flagship event – The Players Championship – arguing at the time that he finds the TPC-Sawgrass host course “awkward.”

That may be true, but it was a move due in no small part to the recommendation of agent Chubby Chandler, a former European Tour member who remains extremely Euro-centric while strategizing when and where his stable of players should compete.

In the time since, McIlroy has not only announced his intentions to take up PGA Tour membership once again in 2012, but has maintained that he is seeking a Florida-based home at which he would spend at least part of his time during the season. It isn’t hard to envision him playing a schedule that more resembles that of Luke Donald or Graeme McDowell, fellow world travelers who spend more time in the U.S. than abroad.

With the news on Friday that McIlroy has decided to split from Chandler and his International Sports Management agency, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that not only was the U.S. Open champion less than enthralled with his agent’s belief system, he may have grown weary of being used as a pawn in Chandler’s constant jingoism toward everything European.

McIlroy follows in the footsteps of Ernie Els, who left ISM earlier this year, and industry insiders say the exodus could continue with other big-name clients switching allegiances soon, as well.

While amplified devotion toward the Euro circuit may be a main factor in the decision-making process of these players, other theories also abound.

One is that Chandler has simply spread himself too thin, with a 26-player stable of clients that includes major champions Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke, as well as second-ranked Lee Westwood. Elite players may not require special coddling, but many do request the special attention that an agency with such a broad client list may not be able to afford.

Another is that McIlroy may not have enjoyed the self-promotion that always seems to follow the ubiquitous Chandler. After Schwartzel, McIlroy and Clarke won the first three legs of this year’s major championship circuit, the so-called Chubby Slam became prominent phrasing in advance of the PGA Championship.

Whatever the case – and as of the time of this writing, McIlroy hadn’t commented on what prompted the split – the world’s third-ranked player will now be affiliated with Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management, the same agency that has represented his friend McDowell for many years.

It remains to be seen what sort of scheduling appearances and endorsement opportunities the agency will seek for McIlroy, but his representatives won’t be short on possibilities. Considering the current personal and professional demise of Tiger Woods, the 22-year-old may very well be the game’s most globally marketable player right now – a situation which should only be enhanced by increased play on the U.S. tour.

That should be the most pertinent information going forward in the wake of this recent news. While his business relationships may change and his schedule will be altered, McIlroy continues to be one of the game’s biggest drawing cards and should only see his star shine brighter with increasingly strong results.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.