“I feel like he gets some negativity around the relationship that’s very unfair, uncalled for.”
It’s the 18th hole at Quail Hollow and Rory McIlroy finds himself in a tricky spot. Chasing his first win in 18 months, the Northern Irishman hooked his drive at the par-four 18th. His ball landed on a bank, took a hop and nestled in some thick rough beside the water hazard.
While the obvious play was to chip back out towards the fairway, McIlroy was encouraged by his caddie, Harry Diamond, to take an alternative approach.
Diamond convinced McIlroy to take a penalty drop which left his ball in a much cleaner lie, allowing the four-time major winner to thump an eight-iron into the heart of the green and make a two-putt bogey to clinch a one-shot win.
After closing out his 19th PGA Tour win, McIlroy made a point of praising Diamond’s timely intervention on the last hole.
Thanks to his friend and bagman, the 32-year-old approaches this week’s PGA Championship in buoyant form having rediscovered his winning formula.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 9, 2021
Rory McIlroy defends caddie, Harry Diamond.
And speaking ahead of his opening round at Kiawah Island – where he won the 2012 PGA Championship by eight shots – McIlroy again defended Diamond.
Diamond who has been criticised in some quarters for his lack of experience as a caddie (JP Fitzgerald, Diamond’s predecessor, had a wealth of experience, in contrast, having teamed with Ernie Els and Darren Clarke prior to linking up with McIlroy in 2008).
“Yeah, I think first and foremost we’re best friends,” said McIlroy.
“That’s sort of the relationship we have. It’s very, very hard for me to call Harry my caddie because that sort of puts down the relationship a little bit. I never really want to say my caddie Harry. That just sort of feels weird for me to say that.
“This was supposed to be a short-term thing back in 2017, and I ended up really enjoying it, really liking it, and he – we made the decision that this was going to be a long-term thing, and it’s worked out great. We’ve had six wins together.”
McIlroy added: “I think the reason I wanted to single Harry out, as well, I feel like he gets some negativity around the relationship that’s very unfair, uncalled for. People don’t know him, don’t really know me. They sort of see things from the outside and from their own perspective, but they don’t really know.
“I wanted to make a point of Harry was 100 per cent the person that told me not to hit that ball on 18 in the creek, and if it wasn’t for him, I probably would have lost the tournament because I’d still probably be trying to hack it out of there. I’m like a dog, if I see a golf ball I want to hit it. It’s there. Or if someone puts a football in front of me I want to kick it. I saw the ball, I wanted to hit it.
“He’s like, let’s just think about this. That was the reason I wanted to single it out, because he kept a cool head when maybe I wasn’t in the best place. And yeah, because of that unfair criticism that I think he’s gotten over the last couple years, I wanted to just make a point of we know what we’re doing out there.”
McIlroy begins his quest for a third PGA Championship at 13:33 Irish time on Thursday.