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McIlroy hopes caddie split brings positive results

© Getty/AFP/File | Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland talks with his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald on the first hole during the final round of the Players Championship at the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 14, 2017 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - 

A slumping Rory McIlroy regrets having to part ways with long-time caddie J.P. Fitzgerald but says it was the best option as he fights to revive his struggling golf game.

McIlroy earlier this week axed Fitzgerald, who had been with him for nine seasons and all four of his major championships, the most recent at the PGA Championship three years ago.

"I still consider J.P. one of my best friends, one of my closest friends, but sometimes to preserve a personal relationship, you might have to sacrifice a professional one and that was sort of the decision that I came to in the end," McIlroy said Wednesday as he prepares for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

McIlroy missed the cut at the Irish Open and the Scottish Open before rallying to finish in a tie for fourth at the British Open.

McIlroy accepted the blame and opened up on the split with Fitzgerald, who previously worked for four-time major winner Ernie Els.

"I was getting very hard on him on the golf course and I don't want to treat anyone like that, but sometimes this game drives you to that," he said.

"I got to the point where if I didn't play a good shot or if I made a wrong decision, I was getting more frustrated at him than I was at myself. I would much rather be angry at myself for making a wrong decision than being angry at him.

"It's a big change. J.P. has been a huge part of my life."

Harry Diamond, who was the best man at McIlroy's wedding earlier this year, will be on his bag this week at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

Diamond is also expected to caddie for McIlroy at next week's PGA Championship but after that it is anyone's guess.

McIlroy did not rule out a reunion with Fitzgerald in the future.

"We'll see how the next two weeks go, but I'm not ruling anything out," he said. "It could be two weeks, it could go longer than that. If we have a couple of good weeks here, you never know but I think that decision will be up to Harry rather than me.

"Obviously he's got his own thing going on back home, but a couple of wins might change things."

World number four McIlroy has 22 pro victories, 13 of them on the US PGA Tour, but hasn't won a title since claiming the Tour Championship to wrap up the FedExCup title last September.

McIlroy captured the 2014 WGC-Bridgestone by two strokes over Sergio Garcia, but missed defending his title because of a left ankle injury and skipped the tournament last year to play in Europe.

- Tough field at Akron -

McIlroy faces a tough field that includes the world top 10 and 49 of the world's 50 highest-ranked golfers. But he does it with a caddie who is very familiar with how he approaches the game.

"He knows me, he knows my game, he has caddied for me before. He knows my personality," McIlroy said of Diamond. "I just needed someone who knew me and knew my thought process. I might think a little bit differently than some of the other players out here, might come to decisions in a different way.

"The year hasn't panned out the way I've wanted it to, but I know more than anyone that can change over the course of a few weeks, especially with how the playoffs are and how much you can vault up those standings."

© 2017 AFP