McIlroy explains caddie firing ‘it was the right thing to do’

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Rory McIlroy parted ways with longtime caddie J.P. Fitzgerald in order to “preserve a personal relationship” with his caddie of nine years, McIlroy said Wednesday while speaking to the media for the first time since the news broke Monday.

“We had a lot of great times on and off the golf course,” McIlroy said during his pre-tournament press conference at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. “I still consider J.P. one of my best friends, one of my closest friends, but sometimes to preserve a personal relationship you have to sacrifice a professional one, and that was the decision that I came to in the end.”

McIlroy said he informed Fitzgerald of the news via phone call on the Tuesday after the British Open, where McIlroy tied for fourth and credited Fitzgerald for turning his opening round around after a 4-over start through five holes.

Asked why he would praise Fitzgerald that Thursday and then fire him less than a week later, McIlroy responded: “I think it was more just credit where credit’s due. … That was the truth.”

The split had been coming for a while.

“I was getting very hard on him on the golf course and I don’t want to treat somebody, anybody, like that,” McIlroy said. “I felt like it was the right thing to do and I don’t think there was any good time to do it. It was a very tough decision to make.”

McIlroy will have Harry Diamond, who was the best man in McIlroy’s wedding this year, on his bag for this week’s WGC-Bridgestone and next week’s PGA Championship. McIlroy, who won at Firestone in 2014 and also boasts two career PGA Championship victories, said it’s up to Diamond whether he wants to caddie beyond the PGA.

Diamond is a skilled amateur golfer and has caddied for McIlroy before, including at the 2014 Dunhill Links and the 2005 Irish Open. However, McIlroy was spotted walking off his own yardages during a practice round on Wednesday.

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