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G-Mac on Rory exit - “I’m pretty sure Horizon weren’t giving him golf lessons"

Going their separate ways. Rory McIlroy and Horizon Sports Management’s Conor Ridge visit the White House in March 2012. Little more than a year later, McIlroy has decided to do his own thing. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Graeme McDowell exonerated Horizon Sports Management from all blame and suggested that Rory McIlroy’s decision to dump them and manage his own affairs has a lot to do with snapping out of the slump in form he reckons has been caused by the massive pressures on his young pal’s shoulders.

The world No 2 has had a torrid start to 2013 since Horizon helped him clinch that estimated $250m move to Nike Golf, not to mention lucrative contracts with Omega and Bose.

Insisting the breakup was “fairly amicable”, McDowell is convinced that Horizon are the latest victims of a typical player reaction when his career has strayed off track.

Going heavy on the irony, McDowell said: “I’m pretty sure the management company weren’t giving him golf lessons.”

Why McIlroy has played poorly at times may have a lot to do with scheduling and practice routines as proving things to new sponsors.

But as a loyal Horizon man, McDowell stuck up for an organisation he put on the map when he joined them at the end of 2007.

Speaking after cruising into the last 16 of the Volvo World Match Play in Bulgaria, the world No 8 added: “Management is a funny thing. I always think when things are maybe not going a hundred per cent on the golf course, I think it’s natural to question everything you are doing down to relationships, business, just everything you’re doing.

“Sometimes we decide to make choices and decisions and take new paths that we perhaps feel like, for the bigger picture, will help up improve and get better.

“Rory’s made a decision about his management structure, for whatever reasons, I don’t know. I really haven’t seen much of him for the last few months, our schedules have been quite different. It’s just one of those things really.”

It was “just one of those things” when McDowell left Chubby Chandler’s International Sports Management group at the end of 2007, claiming that he was “disillusioned” about his career and his form. Stagnation was mentioned.

Though he denied talking up Horizon, he was certainly a factor in McIlroy’s shock decision to ditch Chandler in an airport lounge and join him at Horizon just 18 months ago.

Given his penchant for knee-jerk decision making, McIlroy is at it again, this time to take off on his own and form his own agency, we’re told.

McDowell fully understands why his pal wants to make a fresh start and go it alone with his father Gerry and other handpicked advisors. The “Yoko Ono” consipracy theorists will also note that McDowell hinted that Caroline Wozniacki will be involved in some way in a new Foundation.

Putting a postive spin on things for his management company, McDowell said: “Speaking to the boys (at Horizon), it’s a fairly amicable breakup. Rory wants to go and do his own thing and surround himself with family, that’s fair enough.

“As far as my relationship with Horizon Sports, they’ve done a phenomenal job for me the last five or six years and it’s pretty tough to look at the Rory’s scenario and say they’ve done a bad job for the kid.

“He won a second Major Championship last year, No 1 player in the world, life seems to be good but you just never know.

“I’ve been through periods in my career where I’ve questioned absolutely everyone around me, caddies, coaches, girlfriends, mums and dads — can’t get rid of them — management structures.

“I made the jump from Chubby to Horizon and it certainly was a turning point in my pro career. I’ve never looked back since then.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing. But when the stakes get high and the pressure is on, the old caddies and coaches normally are the first to go.

“I guess management companies probably are not too far down that pecking order either as far as the first ones to go.

“It’s a fickle sport. Let’s be honest. From what I hear it’s a fairly amicable decision all round. I’m disappointed to lose him as a stablemate but we’ll remain very good friends going forward. It’s just one of those things. We’ll see plenty of each other.”

McDowell was fiercely loyal to Horizon despite the loss of their biggest client. The 24-year old has been heralded as the heir apparent to Tiger Woods with a potential billion dollar future in the game if he adds to his two major wins.

Having won the US Open in 2010 and soared into the world’s top 10 since joining the Dublin management company, McDowell saw McIlroy walk off the course mid-round in the Honda Classic in March and insisted that he might have been trying too hard to prove his Nike move was not a mistake.

At the time he said: “Everyone is saying he can’t do it with Nike equipment. This game is an extremely difficult sport, especially when you start playing for other people.”

Yesterday, McDowell defended Horizon to the hilt, adding: “You’ve just got to look at the last 18 months and the job they’ve done for Rory McIlroy.

“He’s had a phenomenal 18 months, signing the biggest deal in golf at the end of last year Business-wise, the guy’s in the best shape he’s ever been in his life. His golf struggled early in the season, for whatever reason.

“I’m pretty sure the management company weren’t giving him golf lessons or caddying for him or telling him how to play. That’s kind of his own deal.

“But sometimes when we’re not on our game, we have a tendency to, I’m not going to say make wrong decisions, but we have a tendency to question everything in our lives that we are doing and sometimes we have to make changes.

“Speaking to the boys, it’s a fairly amicable breakup. Rory wants to go and do his own thing and surround himself with family, that’s fair enough.

“As far as my relationship with Horizon Sports, they’ve done a phenomenal job for me the last five or six years and it’s pretty tough to look at the Rory’s scenario and say they’ve done a bad job for the kid.

“He won a second Major Championship last year, No 1 player in the world, life seems to be good but you just never know.”

McDowell was plainly disappointed by McIlroy’s decision having played a major role in bringing him into his stable.

But he believes the Holywood star will go from strength to strength and hinted that girlfriend and tennis star Wozniacki would play a bigger role in future with a potential Wozzilroy Foundation on the cards.

He said: “Do I feel partly responsible for him being at Horizon Sports, of course, but Rory’s avery intelligent kid and he’s had a phenomenal 18 months to two years with Horizon.

“You can’t knock his results and you can’t knock the job Horizon have done for him as regards ‘Brand Rory’; the partnerships he got off the golf course; the money he’s making off the golf course.

“It’s a high-stakes, high-pressure scenario and something has got to give now and again.  It’s disappointing.”

McIlroy’s father Gerry is believed to be ready to step in as the head of the new McIlroy organisation and McDowell said: “Gerry and Rosie are great and I know Caroline and Rory potentially want to do a foundation together.

“Life changes, we all grow up and want to take different directions in life. Rory’s life is not in Ireland anymore. That was kind of the good thing about Horizon for him at one point, I suppose, but who knows.

“I wish him all the best. Perhaps it’ll strengthen our friendship rather than weaken it. Maybe we’ll be slightly less competitive as stablemates and just get back to playing good golf together.”

McIlroy is following in the footsteps on many golfing greats who left top management firms to go out on their own or take on their parents.

G-Mac said: “The No 1 players in the world typically go out on their own and do their own thing. Greg Norman and Nick Faldo, Tiger to a certain extent, no massive surprise.

“Let’s be honest, life and business goes on. There’ll be no feelings will get hurt.”

Faldo, who mentored McIlroy as a kid thorugh the Faldo Junior Series, has been highly critical of McIlroy’s move to Nike, blaming Horizon for taking the easy money.

“If I was advising him, I’d say, ‘You know what, if you’ve won 10 majors when you retire, a monkey can sell you for tens of millions.’ Because the phone rings in. They say, ‘We want Rory McIlroy, how much?’ ‘Well it’s 10 million. Take it or leave it.’ That’s negotiating when you are the best. But if you are a nobody at 45, then your manager has to call up. It’s way more difficult.