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Rory McIlroy praises caddie, then sacks him after Open disappointment

What is being coined as Rory McIlroy’s ‘year of change’ took another sharp turn this week as the Northern Irishman dismissed long-term caddie JP Fitzgerald.

The announcement was somewhat surprising, and has left many in the game shaking their heads in shock that McIlroy would cut ties with a man held in such high regard by his peers. However, McIlroy clearly feels the blame lies at the feet of his now former caddie.

The issue, of course, is that McIlroy has pointed the finger at several issues this season, including injuries, poor equipment, and now his caddie. Should he be looking closer to home for the true reason this year has stuttered and stalled?

McIlroy and Fitzgerald were together for nine years, and experienced everything from four major championship victories and three Ryder Cup successes, to a meltdown at the Masters and a major drought that has now stretched three seasons.

The real head-scratching part of all this comes from how McIlroy heaped praise upon the shoulders of his caddie, despite another poor showing at The Open at Birkdale. And, with five over after just six holes, it was Fitzgerald who took Rory to one side and reminded him of his gifts with a memorable line: 'You’re Rory McIlroy, what the f**k are you doing?'

McIlroy publicly thanked his caddie for the 'great job' he had done in rekindling his spirits as he stormed home in 32 shots for a 71. He would eventually finish tied for fourth.

“He’s had to do it a few times, and he’s never afraid to do so,” McIlroy told reporters after the event had wrapped. “JP kept me positive out there, so that was very much appreciated.”

His dismissal coming so soon after such glowing praise makes the parting bizarre. Add to the fact it occurred as McIlroy prepares for a pair of events on two of his favourite courses merely deepens the mystery.

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