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McDowell to leave Horizon to manage own affairs

GMac follows McIlroy and walks away from Horizon Management

Graeme McDowell sensationally announced last night that he's leaving Horizon Sports Management at the end of the year — on amicable terms — to manage his own affairs.

In contrast to the acrimonious departure of world No 1 Rory McIlroy from the boutique Dublin agency last year, McDowell insists he's going his own way on good terms after a hugely successful seven-year partnership with the company set up by Conor Ridge and his business partner Colin Morrissey in 2005.

McDowell joined Horizon from Chubby Chandler's ISM in November 2007 and went on to play in three Ryder Cups and win 11 times, including his first major at the 2010 US Open.

He looks certain to win his fourth Ryder Cup cap next month after a closing 72 left him tied 38th in The Barclays, his last appearance before his wife Kristin is due to give birth to the couple's first child today.

In a statement issued by Horizon Sports Management last night, world No 16 McDowell said: “When I joined Horizon in November 2007, I was ranked outside the top 100 players in the world, and was seeking a new and energetic management team to help me achieve my career ambitions — both on and off the golf course.

"I am proud to say that in the intervening years, these ambitions have not only been achieved, but have surpassed my highest expectations.

“During my time with Horizon I have become a Major Champion, played in three successive Ryder Cups and won multiple tournaments around the world.

"In parallel with this, Horizon has helped me to establish a portfolio of global sponsors and corporate partners, with whom I will remain engaged into the future.  

"Horizon has also played a key role in establishing and growing the G-MAC Foundation. Its continued work for children’s charitable causes in the years ahead will represent a legacy that the team at Horizon should be genuinely proud of.”

The decision has been brewing for several months and while it would appear that the "McIlroy Case" has played its part, it is not believed to be the its root.

McDowell's business interests have grown in recent years — he has his own restaurant, a stake in the Game Golf tracking technology and a clothing brand with Kartel — and he now has his own personal assistant and financial advisors but no plans to move to another management company.

He said: “I am at a stage in my life where it feels right to move on to the next phase of my career – both in golf and business.

"I’m now involved with a growing number of exciting business ventures, many of which Horizon helped me establish, and as the landscape evolves so must I.”

The news will be seen as a blow to Horizon Sports management, who have lost McIlroy, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin in recent years and now manage only Shane Lowry and Ross Fisher.

Hoey left in May 2012 because he felt Horizon were more focussed on McIlroy and McDowell.

"He’s going to require more attention and focus than me and I understand that," Hoey said of the arrival of McIlroy.

Sources close to the situation insist that the McDowell has been thinking of making the move for several months and that while he was unhappy with way McIlroy left and his subsequent involvement in the Horizon case through the four time major winner's lawyers, his decision to go his own way is not directly connected to that legal battle, which is not due to be settled in the High Court until early next year.

The Dublin agency has countersued McIlroy for US$3m in unpaid fees and damages after the four time major winner left them in May last year claiming he signed his contract under “undue influence” when he was just 22 years old and inexperienced.

Horizon also dispute McIlroy's claim that he paid more than US$6.8m in fees which his lawyers claim was “many times greater” than the norm.

McDowell confessed at The Open that his relationship with McIlroy was "strained" by the court case after McIlroy's lawyers claimed the Portrush man was a shareholder in Horizon and on a more favourable deal.

Insisting the tension wouldn't affect their potential Ryder Cup partnership, McDowell said: "Yes, it’s been a strain on our relationship, no doubt about it. We’re not the same as we used to be and until the legal proceedings are over and done with,  there’s always going to be that little bit of tension in the air."

He added: “I would particularly like to thank Conor Ridge and the whole Horizon team for their vision, advice and commitment to my golf career and business affairs over the past seven years.

"Their integrity and professionalism are a mark of everything that Horizon represents. I look forward to their continued friendship and support in the years ahead.”

Horizon boss, Conor Ridge wished McDowell well, explaining: “We have worked very closely with Graeme since he came on board in 2007 and have developed a strong personal and professional relationship with him over the years.

"He took a leap of faith when joining what was then a fledgling Irish sports management agency, and we are immensely proud of what we have achieved together since.

“I would like to thank Graeme for putting his trust in us to manage his career and for enabling us to be a part of what has been a very special journey.  With him, we have enjoyed some of the most exciting times and satisfying moments in Horizon’s history thus far, which we will always remember fondly.
“Graeme leaves Horizon as one of the best players in the world and an outstanding ambassador for the game of golf. He is the ultimate role model for any aspiring pro out there, both in how he conducts himself as a person, and the professionalism with which he approaches the game.

"We wish Graeme well for the rest of his golf career and in his future commercial ventures. His innate business acumen will serve him well as he manages his own affairs in the years ahead. He will move on from Horizon with our very best wishes and on-going support for him and his family.”

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