World No4 Rory McIlroy has parted company with long-time caddie JP Fitzgerald just a week before the last Major of the season, the US PGA Championship.
Fitzgerald has been on McIlroy’s bag during a nine-year spell that has seen the Northern Irishman win four Major titles, top the European and American orders of merit, and climb to the top of the world rankings.
The surprise decision leaves the 28-year-old needing a new caddie for the Bridgestone Invitational, which starts on Thursday in Ohio, and the US PGA at Quail Hollow next week.
McIlroy made a point of publicly thanking Fitzgerald at last month’s Open Championship, crediting the Dubliner with helping him arrest a disastrous start to his first round at Royal Birkdale.
“He reminded me what I was capable of and gave me a few positive thoughts,” he said. “He reminded me who I was, basically. He said: ‘You’re Rory McIlroy, what are you doing?’”
He also praised Fitzgerald after his final-round meltdown at the Masters in 2011. “He has taken me from 200 in the world to major champion,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy’s move comes amid a frustrating season in which he has been hampered by a persistent rib injury and struggled to turn spells of brilliance into victories.
He is yet to win in 11 events this year, with a runner-up spot at the South Africa Open in January still his best showing, although he hinted at a return to form by finishing tied for fourth at the Open.
The four-time Major winner is slight favourite for the US PGA with some bookmakers despite failing to claim one of golf’s four big titles since the same tournament in 2014.
Open champion Jordan Spieth and world No1 Dustin Johnson are also short odds to land the US PGA, with some bookies pricing them and McIlroy equally.