A Sense of Huber: Golf's Shocking Split

By Jim Huber
Published on

If they knew it was coming, they are two of the finest actors in all of golf. Rory McIlroy and his agent/manager Chubby Chandler spent three days in Bermuda at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf looking like the best of friends.

 In the time it took the 22-year-old to bolt for Istanbul, where he would watch his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki try and retain her No. 1 status in the tennis world, word came that he had also bolted Chandler to join fellow Northern Ireland star Graeme McDowell at Horizon Sports Management.

Perhaps (hey, it can happen) the parting was amicable. When Ernie Els left Chandler earlier this year, the split seemed remarkably civil.

In the initial news of McIlroy's departure, however, not a word from either side. He was, simply, gone.

Chandler's remarkable run with the firm ISM, based in England, began in the summer of 2010 when his client Louis Oosthuizen won the Open Championship at St. Andrews. It came about a month after Chandler sold 75 percent of ISM and became an employee, not the boss.

His man Charl Schwartzel won the Masters this year, McIlroy won the U.S. Open, and one of his originals, Darren Clarke, won the Open Championship at Royal St. George's. Chubby Chandler clients had won three straight majors and four of the last six. He could do no wrong.

No agent in the business was as hot. He steered his men in remarkable directions as they took advantage of their breakout success. In fact, he and McIlroy came to Bermuda together off a stunning journey through China where they played in seven different cities in seven days.

McIlroy enjoyed the adventure so much that he told Chandler he would have no trouble doing it again next fall. This is a youngster, obviously, who seeks far more than birdies. In his run-up to the U.S. Open at Congressional in June, he spent time with UNICEF in Haiti and came away so overwhelmed by it all that he told me he plans to go to Vietnam among other places with the charity group next year.

An interesting side to his trip to China: It was arranged, both technically and financially, before his Open victory and so the money was nowhere near as lucrative as it might have been. That didn't seem to matter to him.

We talked at length in Bermuda about Chandler and the role he has played in McIlroy's young life. He seemed earnestly connected and gave absolutely no indication he had plans to leave.

Chandler, likewise. The curly-haired 22-year-old was like a son to him, like a brother to Clarke, and it didn't appear that would ever change. Perhaps, in a roundabout way, it won't. Surely he spent quiet time with Clarke as he pursued this move. Clarke, you can hear him now, must have been understanding.

"Do what you must, Rors," he would have counseled. "It's your life."

Frankly, in the overall scheme of things, it always seemed rather strange that McDowell was not a part of the Chandler crew until you looked closer and found that Horizon Sports Management is located in Dublin.

Adding McIlroy is an enormous coup for the small agency, giving it the last two U.S. Open champions as well as the impressive young Michael Hoey from Northern Ireland. Ironically, he held off a charge from McIlroy to win the Dunhill Links a few weeks ago.

Still, the shock waves reverberate throughout the golf world now. Like most marriages that end suddenly, the initial reaction lasts:
They seemed so ... happy.  


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