Rory McIlroy rips Tiger Woods’ caddie for ‘unfair’ U.S. Open criticism

Rory McIlroy used his first media appearance on the PGA Tour since his U.S. Open heartbreak to fiercely defend his caddie and childhood friend, Harry Diamond, in the wake of criticism levied by NBC analyst Smylie Kaufman and Hank Haney, who carried Tiger Woods’ bag for six major titles.

Ahead of the Genesis Scottish Open on Wednesday, McIlroy was asked about Haney’s social media posts questioning whether Diamond is too deferential in high-stakes moments, exemplified by the par-3 15th in the final round at Pinehurst No. 2.

Haney drew a sharp contrast to Steve Williams, who partnered with Tiger for 63 PGA Tour victories.

“I will say this, if Steve Williams was Rory’s caddie I can promise you he would have never hit a perfect flighted 7 iron that rolled over the green on 15 into a terrible lie because he would have hit an 8 iron and sent it straight up in the air and held the green,” Haney wrote on June 18.

Kaufman, who followed McIlroy’s group during the final round of the 2024 U.S. Open, raised similar questions about Diamond (the best man at McIlroy’s wedding in 2018), also noting the momentum-halting bogey on no. 15.

“I felt like Harry Diamond really should have stepped in on the 15th hole. He did not have the right club in his hands,” Kaufman said on a podcast. “And I felt like Rory could have taken control of the championship on 15 if he just hits it in the middle of the green. And he hit a good shot. But it just was the wrong club. And never, never was a 7-iron for Rory.  … It was an 8-iron all day, hit it in the middle of the green.

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“I would say that was a huge, huge mistake. I don’t really ever see Harry stepping in a ton. Rory always, if he has a question, he’ll ask, but for the most part, Rory kind of goes and does his thing and he’s got a lot of feel.”

McIlroy, desperate to end a 10-year major drought, bogeyed three of the final four holes — including two missed putts inside of four feet — to surrender a two-shot lead to LIV Golf’s Bryson DeChambeau.

This year, McIlroy has won the Dubai Desert Classic (a DP World Tour event), the PGA Tour’s lone team event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and the Wells Fargo Championship (sans Scottie Scheffler). The 35-year-old is ranked no. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking and third in total strokes gained on the PGA Tour in 2024.

“It’s certainly unfair,” McIlroy said at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick. “Hank Haney has never been in that position. Smylie has been in that position once, and I love Smylie, and he was out there with us on 18.

“But just because Harry is not as vocal or loud with his words as other caddies, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t say anything and that he doesn’t do anything. I just wish that these guys who criticize when things don’t go my way … they never say anything good when things do go my way.”

With Diamond on the bag, McIlroy has 16 top-10s in majors, but zero wins. He finished T22 at the Masters, T12 at the PGA Championship, and, well, you know what happened at the U.S. Open.

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“So where were they when I won Dubai earlier year or Quail Hollow or the two FedEx Cups that I’ve won with Harry or the two Ryder Cups or whatever?” McIlroy continued. “They are never there to say Harry did such a great job when I win, but they are always there to criticize when we don’t win.

“At the end of the day, they are not there. They are not in the arena. They are not the ones hitting the shots and making the decisions. Someone said to me once, you would never—if you would never take advice from these people, you would never take their criticisms, either. Certainly wouldn’t go to Hank Haney for advice. I love Smylie, but I think I know what I’m doing, and so does Harry.”

McIlroy is the favorite and defending champion the Genesis Scottish Open, which begins on Thursday. He’ll partner with Viktor Hovland and Robert MacIntyre for the first two rounds.

One week later, the final major of the season, the 152nd Open Championship, tees off at Royal Troon.

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