Graeme McDowell insists that he did not give Rory McIlroy the “hard sell” and actively recruit him for the Horizon Sports Management stable.
As the 2010 US Open champion pointed out at Valderrama on Wednesday: “I would resent any suggestion of enticement.”
McDowell didn’t have to tell McIlroy anything about Horizon that the 22-year old world No 3 didn’t already know.
From two wins in five and a half years at ISM to six wins (including a major) and two Ryder Cup appearances in the next three seasons at Horizon, McDowell’s CV is the Dublin agency’s dream advertising campaign.
“I would not want to persuade Rory McIlroy to come to Horizon Sports or to make a decision of that magnitude because he’s got an incredible career ahead of him and, as a good friend of his, I want him to make decisions like that himself,” McDowell said on the eve of his title defence at the Andalucia Masters.
“He’s a very intelligent young man. He’s very headstrong and impulsive as we’ve seen in the past. He makes his own decisions and really never was going to listen to me.
“Of course, I’ve told him about the great things Horizon have done for me and the advantages I enjoyed from working with them and how comfortable I feel in the structures they provide.
“I’ve no idea who else he spoke to. I’m sure he spoke to other people and I’m sure he then made his decision. My involvement was minimal.”
McDowell confessed that he was mildly surprised that McIlroy opted for Horizon rather than a big management player.
He said: “Rory has a huge global profile. He’s of Tigeresque potentials in terms of what he can do for world golf.
“I was thinking he was going to go with your IMG’s or CAA’s, one of these apparently huge vehicles to manage your business. But big doesn’t necessarily mean better.
“I’m very excited to have him in the stable. It’s very exciting for Conor and his team. They are young, very motivated people. I’m sure Rory sat back and saw the job they’ve done for me the last few years and was impressed.”
Industry insiders wonder how a relative newcomer like Ridge could possible do a better job than a highly successful and experienced manager such as Chubby Chandler.
But McDowell believes the young Dubliner has made huge strides over the past four years and ably climbed a steep learning curve since his 2010 US Open victory.
“It is a huge challenge,” McDowell conceded. “Conor’s learned a lot in the last few years having managed me and with all I have experienced.
“I’m sure Rory has looked at what we’ve gone through over the last 18 months and realised if Conor maybe was not ready to take on a world class player maybe two or three years ago, he certainly is now.
“He’s got the experience and the corporate connections. He’s connected himself around the world with everyone and is well-respected in world golf. He has the credentials to manage a Rory McIlroy.”
McDowell left ISM at the end of 2007, just a few weeks after McIlroy arrived with great fanfare.
“I was looking for an injection of energy, some new ways of looking at my career,” McDowell said of his decision to abandon ship and move to Horizon. (Incidentally, he has always denied that McIroy’s arrrival at ISM was a factor in his move.)
“I wanted more of a calculated structure and more of a personal service I suppose,” he said. “Being in a large company like ISM, if you’re not playing great, you can sometimes get lost down the pecking-order of big name players and I guess I went from being a small fish in a big pond to being a big fish in a small pond.
“I got the attention and the service I needed to rebuild the structure I needed around me. Obviously a smaller, boutique company with Conor and Colin (Morrissey) being the two main guys, obviously being energetic and up for it gave me the injection of momentum I needed with my career at that time.”
McIlroy and McDowell will team up for Ireland for the second time in the World Cup later this year. They have formed a close friendship and become a successful matchplay partnership in both the Vivendi Trophy and the Ryder Cup.
“It’s great to have him. We’re great friends and have spent a lot of time together – though probably less this year. We played very different schedules so I haven’t seen a lot of him. But to have him being managed by the same company obviously will strengthen our relationship. I’ve always had a huge interest in his career and I’ll be able to watch it a little more closely now with him being managed by the same people.
“I’m excited to have him around. I know Conor and the team are too. If signing me was a huge jump, this is a giant leap for Horizon Sports and they’ll be very excited about it.”