The team behind the hero

When Rory McIlroy took a two-shot lead into the weekend at Valhalla he was asked about the keys to his amazing summer.

The team behind the hero

The break-up with Caroline Wozniacki, he admitted, was a major factor. But it was more than just a factor in terms of allowing him to focus totally on his game, it also allowed him to circle the wagons in terms of his entourage.

“Obviously there’s a lot of people around me who keep me on an even keel,” he said. “My mum and dad are obviously the two biggest influences on my life and I’ve got a great bunch of friends from home and I’ve got a great team around me.

“They are the people that I confide in and the people I can tell everything to, and it’s great to have a solid bunch of people like that around you that you can rely on.”

As he jetted out of Louisville on a private jet on Sunday night, the Irishman tweeted a picture of some members of this inner circle.

And among those grinning back at the camera were his coach, his caddie, his father, his best friend and his tour manager — in short, the group that’s been with him through thick and thin.

Team McIlroy

The father: Gerry McIlroy...................

Rory’s mother Rosie was the first to run onto the green at Hoylake to congratulate him on his Open Championship victory.

But his father Gerry is more than just dad to the four-time major champion. He’s the man who gave him his first club at just 18 months and caddied for him throughout his amateur career.

He’s the central figure behind Rory McIlroy Inc, the vehicle created to handle all of McIlroy’s affairs following the acrimonious split with Horizon Sports Management in the spring of 2013 and the person he relies on most for advice.

The coach: Michael Bannon...............

Apart from his parents, McIlroy relies on nobody more than the former Holywood Golf Club professional who taught him the game.

And as McIlroy admitted on Sunday, it’s a relationship that has matured in recent years as the PGA professional has become as much a mentor as a coach.

“It’s not just about the golf swing,” McIlroy said. “It’s about course management. It’s about strategy… When I was a teenager, even the early part of my career as a pro, it was all just about the technical stuff. Now that he travels with me a little bit more and he sees me play more on the golf course, our conversations are more about strategy or course management or hitting certain shots at the right time.”

Nothing will change in that regard as McIlroy explained on Sunday.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s my motto. I’ve always been that way. I feel like the work that I’ve put into my golf swing from the age of 15 to 20 is going to stand to me throughout my career.”

The best friend: Harry Diamond................

McIlroy and Diamond have been pals since they were amateurs at Holywood Golf Club and at nearly five years his senior, the Belfast nightclub owner is something of a big brother to the world No 1.

Fiercely loyal, he politely turns down media requests for comment on his friend and along with Mitchell Tweedie and Ricky McCormick, remains a constant in McIlroy’s life and keeps him grounded and connected with home.

The caddie: JP Fitzgerald...................

When Pádraig Harrington was winning his second major at Royal Birkdale, Rory McIlroy was sitting at home preparing his next move.

Caddie JP Fitzgerald was the man handed the job on the recommendation of Chubby Chandler and it has proved to be a match made in heaven.

“He may not be the best caddie in the world, but he’s the best caddie for Rory,” Chandler would comment later on a bagman who has worked with Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Ernie Els.

McIlroy has always defended his man, especially in the face of criticism. Needless to say, they have now become firm friends.

The tour manager: Sean O’Flaherty...............

A Trinity College computer science graduate, Kildare native O’Flaherty was a low handicap amateur who went on to caddie for close friend Stephen Browne on tour. They ended up working together in financial services before O’Flaherty moved to Browne’s former management company, Horizon Sports Management as a “Player Liaison Manager” in January 2012.

He was handed the task of travelling with McIlroy and it was no surprise that McIlroy took him on when the split occurred with Horizon last year. Utterly loyal to his current employer, he enjoys the trust not just of McIlroy but his father Gerry.

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