World No 4 will compete in the World Golf Championship in Akron and then the US PGA Championship the week after
RORY McILROY has taken six years to make the decision everyone in golf said was inevitable — firing caddie JP Fitzgerald.
SunSport understands the world No 4 will have best friend Harry Diamond on the bag for his next two events.
And he will be hoping they can salvage his season — even though Diamond has virtually no experience of doing the job.
The Northern Irishman, 28, has been repeatedly told he needed to bite the bullet and hire a new caddie since Fitzgerald remained ‘mute’ during the infamous meltdown that saw him throw away the 2011 Masters.
McIlroy was just 22 at the time and plenty of seasoned observers pointed the finger at his caddie for not stepping in to calm him down.
Instead Fitzgerald, who had previously worked for Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, remained impassive after McIlroy duck-hooked his drive on the tenth at Augusta.
He kept passing over the clubs without any obvious signs of consultation or advice.
McIlroy eventually ran up a damaging triple bogey seven.
And after heading into the final round with a four-shot lead, he signed for an 80 that sent him crashing into a share of 15th.
Former professional golfer Jay Townsend, who now works as an analyst for the BBC and the Golf Channel, immediately urged McIlroy to look elsewhere.
But he remained fiercely loyal to Fitzgerald, who linked up with him nine years ago, shortly after he turned professional.
McIlroy used his Twitter account to reply: “Shut up, you’re just a failed golfer.”
It has been a similar story ever since, with McIlroy refusing to listen to calls for him to hire a more pro-active caddie — until now, anyway.
Diamond last carried his friend’s bag when he played in the 2005 Irish Open as a 16-year-old amateur prodigy.
He will be pressed into duty for this week’s World Golf Championship event, the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, and could also be on the bag for next week’s USPGA Championship.
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But Diamond, who used to be a member of the crack Irish amateur squad with McIlroy, is unlikely to be a permanent replacement.
He is now a successful businessman, despite regularly taking time off to attend the Masters and Players Championship as McIlroy’s guest.
Having such an inexperienced caddie is clearly a gamble.
But it is entirely in keeping with a year of change that has seen McIlroy get married, move from Nike clubs to Taylor Made and fail to record a single victory while battling troublesome back and rib injuries.
Bizarrely, Fitzgerald was axed just over a week after the former world No 1 praised him for delivering a well-needed rollicking that helped McIlroy recover from a horrendous start at The Open.
It now looks as if Fitzgerald’s outburst on the sixth tee — “you’re Rory McIlroy, what the f**k are you doing” — will be among the last words he uttered to him as his bag man.
It worked a treat — McIlroy recovered brilliantly to eventually finish in a tie for fourth.
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Fitzgerald supporters will point to the four Majors he helped win and his man’s rise to the top of the golfing world as proof that he was best man for the job.
He also banked around £52million in prize money during their time together, with Fitzgerald’s share amounting to around a cool £5m.
But despite being acclaimed as the most gifted golfer of his generation, if McIlroy fails to win a third USPGA title later this month he will have gone three years without adding to his tally.
You have to wonder how many more Majors he might have won if he had someone of the stature of Steve Williams — right-hand man to Tiger Woods during his heyday — at his side.
McIlroy was keeping his lips sealed as rumours of the split surfaced yesterday.
His manager, Sean O’Flaherty, said there would be no comment until McIlroy attends his pre-tournament press conference at the Bridgestone Invitational tomorrow.
He said: “Nothing to share. Rory will address all questions on Wednesday in Akron.”