The first man to cop the flak when things are going awry seldom gets credit when things are going well.
This pattern likely won’t break for Harry Diamond – Rory McIlroy’s much maligned caddie – but it ought to.
From almost the moment he picked up his old friend’s bag, shortly after McIlroy split with the experienced JP Fitzgerald in the wake of the 2017 Open Championship, Diamond has had to endure regular and unjust criticism.
“He’s not a proper caddie.”
“Rory needs somebody he’ll listen to.”
“He’s a bag carrier, nothing more.”
The appraisals of Diamond have been rough to say the least.
It calls to mind the comparatively low regard in which Hank Haney was held during his spectacularly successful spell as Tiger Woods’ coach.
Under Haney’s tutelage, Woods won 32 titles, six of them majors. In the last two-and-a-half of their six years together, Woods won 44% of his tournaments and was in the top three in another 43%. Even so, the view from the armchair was as consistent as it was short-sighted. Tiger, according to many, needed to go back to Butch Harmon.
Woods, as a point of fact, has won just nine of the 96 PGA Tour events he has played since splitting with Haney in May 2010. That’s a 9.4% win rate. Throughout the travails of the past few years, how many people have you heard suggest the former world No.1 should reunite with Haney? Few at most? None, more likely?
Expect the narrative to be similarly cock-eyed in the dissection of Rory’s victory in the Players Championship.
Expect to hear lots about his imperious ball-striking, and rightly so. McIlroy has gained 55.5 strokes on the field from tee to green in his six most recent PGA Tour starts.
Expect to be told that his Sunday curse has been broken, after having appeared to have taken the instruction to rest on the Sabbath a little too literally of late.
Expect to see lots of mocked-up photographs of him wearing a Green Jacket as Masters fever intensifies over the next few weeks.
Expect praise for Diamond to be far less forthcoming. Which is both unfortunate and unfair.
Diamond, by all accounts, is a quiet but conscientious lad. The idea that he merely carries Rory’s bag is a complete misnomer. A source close to the pair tells me that Harry is thorough and meticulous in his course prep, diligently analysing all of Rory’s statistics to plan a strategy for each event. He looks at where to miss, where to attack, where to be cautious, and sometimes does so a good few weeks in advance so that he is as prepared as possible by the time tournament week rolls around.
He’s also a talented golfer. Off plus figures and, like McIlroy, coached by Michael Bannon, he represented Ireland numerous times and won, amongst other things, the prestigious West of Ireland Championship in 2012. Had it not been for his successful business portfolio, there’s a good chance he might have joined McIlroy in the pro ranks. So, he understands the game and, crucially, as a childhood friend, he understands Rory. Franky, you could make a compelling case for him being the best possible candidate to caddie for McIlroy. Rory clearly seems to think so.
Diamond occupies a number of roles in Team McIlroy: best friend, confidant, travel companion, caddie.
Others may not have full faith in him; but Rory does. And that’s all that matters.
“People just think he's my best friend and I got him on the bag because I didn't want to listen to anyone else but that's not true," said McIlroy in the aftermath of his win at Sawgrass. "Harry is an accomplished golfer and he has turned into one of the best caddies out here, if not the best. He's so committed. He's so professional. And having him by my side out there is so good, and it's so comforting.
"He knows when to talk to me, whenever I need distracted, in terms of not thinking too much about what's going on around me in the tournament, and he also knows when to say a couple of things. He's been a big part of this."
Not a proper caddie? Nonsense. Diamond might just be his career grand slam chasing buddy’s most precious asset.