The wee man and the Big Bloke are both smiling a lot today. And why not.
Rory McIlroy’s opening salvo, a round studded with brilliance, is one of the great starts to any Masters and the watching Chubby Chandler knew it. Chubby, of course, is the boss of ISM, Rory’s management company and a group that is yet to have one of its players actually win a major. And this despite the fact that Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Ernie Els are stable-mates of young Rory’s (Els joining after his last major win).
Managing a major winner is just about the only challenge left to Chandler who was a European Tour player himself for many years until starting his own company and applying the managerial lessons he had learned while a player. Not that Chubby ever challenged for a major. Indeed the only one he ever played in was The Open and he almost always had to qualify for that.
For years – back when Open qualifying was over Sunday and Monday of the big week – Chubby used to battle away. As an extra incentive I used to offer him a seat at my table at the golfwriters’ dinner on Tuesday evening but only if he had qualified. It was, until he won The Brazilian Open, almost the biggest prize he ever picked up.
Now he finds himself on the edge of a McIlroy win here. This would not only elevate the bouncy Belfast boy onto a much higher and rarified plateau, it would mean Chandler signing contracts that not even he has imagined possible.
Walking round the back nine at Augusta watching Rory in action I was struck by how many Americans were rooting for him. This is mostly because they like his style and his obvious decency when interviewed but I suspect it is also because he is Irish as well as British and the Americans just love the Irish (they don’t understand how he can be British as well so they just ignore this).
At the 14th hole I found myself surrounded by a group of Irish who unfolded the Republic tricolour as our hero marched past. Rory didn;t seem to give them much of a glance. Now this may have been because he was so focused or it may have been because his national flag is a different colour. Disappointed, the Irish group withdrew. Before they did so I suggested gently that they might like to consider painting the Red Hand of Ulster in the middle of their flag. Now that might get his attention. It would mine.
Golf Monthly at the US Masters: