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McIlroy set to ditch agents again to go it alone

ESPN staff
May 17, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Rory McIlroy's Honda Classic walk-off may have influenced his split from Horizon Sports © Getty Images
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Rory McIlroy is expected to split with his current agents to set up his own management company, barely a year after controversially parting company with his former representatives.

McIlroy, the world No. 2, is currently represented by Dublin-based Horizon Sports - a small, 12-man organisation that he joined after leaving Chubby Chandler's powerful International Sports Management (ISM) agency in 2011.

At the time of his split with ISM - who also represent the likes of Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke - the Northern Irishman said he was unhappy with the way his career was moving. He soon signed with Horizon, made the decision to re-locate to the United States and duly agreeing a variety of new endorsement deals - including a blockbuster agreement with Nike.

However, the 24-year-old is now widely expected to dispense with Horizon and create his own management company to deal with his affairs - with family and close friends tasked with looking out for his interests.

Horizon chief Conor Ridge refused to comment when asked if McIlroy is set to split from the company, despite insistence in the Irish media that the decision has already been made.

"We simply do not comment on industry rumours or speculation," Ridge told the Irish Independent. "Horizon Sports Management always has and always will give first priority to the confidentiality of its clients."

McIlroy is expected to strike out on his own, having taken the advice of tennis superstar Roger Federer - who, along with his long-time agent, left global agency IMG last year to handle his affairs directly.

A third Nike ambassador, world No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods, previously did something similar with the IMG agent he had his entire professional career, Mark Steinberg.

"He's a role model, someone I can pattern myself after," McIlroy told the New York Times, speaking about Federer's handling of his image.

While dissatisfaction with some of his sponsorship deals and a rift with other senior clients - notably Westwood - was believed to be a factor in McIlroy's departure from ISM, no reason has been given for his decision to leave Horizon.

However, McIlroy was widely criticised for his walk-off at the recent Honda Classic - an event Horizon agent was in attendance for, and one where the company also put out a confusing statement for his departure that only fuelled the controversy.

"I'm not going to say we handled it perfectly," Ridge said of the tournament. "I'm sure we could have done something better."

Some of McIlroy's other comments to the New York Times suggest he craves the personal approach, perhaps to a greater extent than even Horizon can offer.

"There's no set way to do it," McIlroy said about his representation. "I think it's a good thing for me that I'm with a smaller company. They are always looking out for what's best for me."

He then added: "What we're dealing with and what's going on in my life now is new to everyone around me and it's a learning experience and it's a learning curve and you learn every day.

"If we weren't learning and we weren't making mistakes, then there would be something wrong."

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