The question still being asked by those on European Tour is exactly why did Rory McIlroy dramatically leave ISM and move to the Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management?
McIlroy indicated he wanted to be closer to good friend, Graeme McDowell and that would make sense he team with McDowell.
However it had been ISM’s Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler who was instrumental in nurturing McIlroy’s career these past four years ever since he stood at the back of the 18th green at Carnoustie during the 2007 British Open Championship prize-giving ceremony and admiring McIlroy being handed the Low Amateur medal.
It was no surprise that on the eve of the British Masters later that year, Chandler announced McIlroy had signed with ISM.
But then Chandler must have feared losing a player of McIllroy’s dazzling star quality and it’s happened in a manner to pull the carpet right out from one of the most approachable and larger-than-life figures on the European Tour with the shock news McIlroy’s joining the Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management.
One wonders what more could Chandler or for that matter client manager, Stuart Cage have done to brighten McIlroy’s star?
And as some others have rightfully suggested: “So much for loyalty!”
Chandler has been singled out as being at fault for stealing McIlroy’s limelight with talk last August in Atlanta of a ‘Chubby Slam’ but was that Chubby’s making or just a thirsty media?
As well, surely McIlroy’s not pulled the ISM plug because he felt Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke were hogging too much of the ISM attention?
McIlroy’s centre stage everywhere he goes and surely he’s mature enough to deal with any in-house conflicts rather than simply pack his bags and go running off to Horizon’s?
Another question that was circulating last week in Spain when news broke of McIlroy’s move and that is who has bankrolled McIlroy’s move to Horizon Sports?
Could it be BlackCube Investment who announced in Belfast on Monday they are backing Michael Hoey and rookie Paul Cutler?
No matter it’s a brilliant coup for Horizon Sports but they’re still very much a small player when it comes to golf management and it remains to be seen how company boss Conor Ridge is going to handle McIlroy.
He has much to learn from ‘Chubby’s’ style of managing whether or not he was stealing the limelight because compared to main rivals IMG, ISM is open door and that’s been refreshing for the media.
So far, Ridge has seemingly done a good job handling McDowell but then McDowell has been conspiciously quite this season and that’s not because of a downturn in form.
Why didn’t we see McDowell joining those recently heading to China for the seven day, seven city challenge?
How many times have we been made aware in the past 12 months or so of any McDowell iniatives or PR undertakings away from the golf course?
And how poor was it that Ridge could not encourage McDowell contest the recent Vivendi Seve Trophy when ‘Chubby’ was able to bring about a change in mind for Westwood and Clarke?
You can be assured Ryder Cup captain, Jose Marie Olazabal will remember that when it comes times to choose his two Medinah picks.
Olazabal is known to have been unhappy with McDowell’s tweet to Ian Poulter during a team meeting he was enjoying the sunshine on a Florida beach.
Then there was Michael Hoey’s effort recently at the Home of Golf.
Many of the Irish Republic based newspapers did not want to know anything about Hoey in the three days before he captured the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
It was only when he won at the Home of Golf that Ireland’s leading papers had to lead with the Belfast golfer.
Shane Lowry brilliantly captured the 2009 Irish Open while still an amateur but he’s since disappeared so far off the PR radar.
But then Ridge now has McIlroy and the most exciting golfer on the planet.
If the lack of information eminating from Horizon’s the past few days is any indication then Ridge still has much to learn.
And it also remains to be seen whether the media will have the same access to McIlroy news tips and scoops with Ridge as most members of the media so richly enjoyed with ‘Chubby’.
One wonders also if Horizons can command the same bargaining power as ‘Chubby’s’ been able to deliver the 22-year old McIlroy.
‘Chubby’s’ often seen at tournaments talking openly with the power brokers of the European Tour.
How will those now look upon Ridge?
Among those surprised by McIlroy’s move was Hoey and one of Horizon’s first signings.
Hoey delivered the company their first-ever one-two Race to Dubai finish by denying McDowell last month at the Home of Golf.
“The news is a real shock but then it’s a huge coup for Connor,” said Hoey last week in Castellon.
“Graeme no doubt was the factor in that as he and Rory are the best of friends.
“But it’s fabulous for Horizon Sports as it’s an Irish company and it’s good that another Irish golfer like Rory is joining the stable.”
While we’ve asked many questions we should be assured of one answer and that is McIlroy will now certainly be contesting next June’s Irish Open.
* Additional reporting by Bernie McGuire