Brit Andrew “Chubby” Chandler is a former journeyman pro who parlayed an ordinary playing career on the European Tour into a hugely successful business as the head of International Sports Management, the London-based firm that represents, among others, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
Chandler is a people person by nature but knows when to be fiercely protective of his players and/or ISM’s interests. Global Golf Post Editor-In-Chief Brian Hewitt recently sat with Chandler, in the States, and engaged him in an extended conversation during which a variety of areas were covered.
What follows is Chandler’s professional philosophy, his opinions on the state of the game and even his views on Tiger Woods’ problems. Chandler also provided very personal insights into Westwood, Els, McIlroy and Clarke.
GGP: Your company, ISM, is perceived to be smaller and less-buttoned down than IMG, your industry’s giant. True or false? And what are the key differences?
CC: If you want to describe what we’re good at in our company, we give fantastic support to our players and we’re there to help them through problems; help them come down after a win; help them get up before a win, etc., etc. And we’ve also got a reputation for enjoying ourselves in the good times, and I think that all brings it together. It makes it an interesting, successful culture.
GGP: Rory McIlroy’s attention-getting and stylish win at Quail Hollow in May had to give that culture a spike.
CC: There are three or four of our young guys that have grown up with Rory that will have been inspired by that week. And the older guys take an interest in the younger guys. We’re a family. People do scrap. It’s a group of people that feed off of each other’s successes for sure.
GGP: What was the most remarkable thing about Rory’s Sunday 62?
CC: The simplicity of the turnaround. I talked to him at length on the phone Friday afternoon after he missed the cut at The Masters. He was worried that he wasn’t closing out tournaments. He wanted to possibly see (mental coach) Bob Rotella to help him close out tournaments. But if you have a look at his record last year, he made a lot of money but he didn’t get in contention that often. There was almost an element of impatience. Rory had a sit down with Jack Nicklaus that was absolutely fantastic. But my guess is that Mr. Nicklaus didn’t play at 20 like he did at 35. My advice to Rory was to tell him you’re getting a lot of great advice but play like you play. Let’s play like Rory plays because by the time you’re 34, you’ll learn everything.
GGP: The message got through, then?
CC: He’s funny that way, because you never know that he’s listening. There’s a number of times we’ll have a chat and I’ll see that he’s absorbed it. And it’s quite interesting because every client’s different. We talked about being happy, and you don’t know if he’s listening. But he is listening.
GGP: How big will the 62 be for his memory box?
CC: It will add to his vault or psyche because while he believes he belongs in these big tournaments, it’s a different thing to think that than to know that. To win in a a field with Tiger and Phil and Lee and Cabrera. It’s quite interesting … this is the same kid who 18 months ago said the Ryder Cup was an exhibition (laughter). It’s interesting how his mind is now.
GGP: A lot of people who follow golf feel betrayed by what Tiger Woods turned out to be away from the golf course. What can you say to somebody who might wonder that Rory McIlroy won’t turn out to be like that in 13 years when he’s 34?
CC: There was a bit of pressure for Rory to stay in Charlotte (after Quail Hollow) on that Sunday night – to throw a party for this or that. Fortunately, we were only three- and-a-half hours away. I said let’s just get down to Jacksonville. I didn’t want him hanging around in Charlotte. He didn’t need to be photographed with a beer two days before his 21st birthday or with a blonde. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything I can do to stop that. But I would say that what has happened to Tiger has highlighted what can happen, and I think you are only more on your guard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
GGP: Has Tiger been treated unfairly?
CC: I think that it’s very easy to deride Tiger at the moment. But people won’t soon get away from what he’s done for golf. I think the negativity has not come close to the positive effect he’s had on the game for amateurs, for spectators, for kids, for other players, for fitness, for TV contracts, for this and that.
GGP: Did the Tiger mess damage the business of golf?
CC: I don’t think it’s going to damage the business of golf particularly. I think probably what it’s done is make people wary of focusing on individuals. One of the reasons some people don’t do sponsorship is exactly this: They invest too much in one person and if that person has a hit like Tiger has, then that investment is a negative investment. So maybe this will change more into ambassador-type roles with the player not actually being the face of the company.
GGP: Has the game of golf been damaged by Tiger?
CC: No. No damage. I would say right now golf’s on the crest of a wave. We’re in a really good place. Golf’s gotten quite a bit exciting again, hasn’t it? There’s a few people winning with a smile on their face. Ernie struck a blow for family values. Phil struck a blow for family values. Rory’s a fresh face and Ryo (Ishikawa). I would say we’re in a pretty good curve at the moment.
GGP: If Tiger had been one of your guys, is there anything you would have had him do differently once all of the scandals broke.
CC: I find it unbelievable that the Tour allowed him to have his press conference at the Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters in the middle of the match-play event in Arizona. It was totally unfair to all the other players. I don’t think anybody gave a damn about the other players. It was just crazy what happened there. And I think that if the facts are as they were written as opposed to probably what they are I think getting him back on the course is the best thing. I don’t know about an addiction. As far as I can see, he’s a man. There’s a few people who have come before him that have probably done the same thing.
GGP: Who got hurt here?
CC: I feel sorry for Tiger’s wife and what she’s had to endure. That’s probably the most difficult thing in the whole situation. Maybe the best thing for him to do is just take six more weeks off and reassess his life. He’s got his health, and while his life’s never going to be the same, he’s got a life. A lot of people don’t have a life.
GGP: Tell me something about Darren and Ernie and Lee- – even if it’s something small, that people might not know?
CC: Ernie’s a bit more complex than anybody thinks. And in a lot of ways. One of them is that he’s not quite “The Big Easy” that everybody thinks he is. He’s quite a tough guy. And there’s a massive desire inside that big body that nobody knows. Nobody knows how badly he wants to win three or four more majors. And he works his ass off trying to do it.
GGP: Darren Clarke?
CC: Darren Clarke is one of the most intimidating people from the outside that anybody knows and he’s an absolute huge teddy bear inside. And nobody understands from the outside how much he helps the other players and how much advice he gives. We’re 20 years together in August. I’ve been with him the longest. He’s my most infuriating favorite son. But I wouldn’t say my relationship with Lee is any less than it is with Darren.
GGP: Lee Westwood?
CC: Lee would be one of my best friends. We’ve grown very close over the last couple of years since Darren’s not been in the picture for one reason or another. Lee’s a very, very balanced person, very interesting. He’s a bit like a boxer because his down time is real down time.
GGP: As opposed to Sergio, who is clearly scarred, Westwood appears to be taking positives from being so close at majors.
CC: The Masters this year and Turnberry last year were two totally different experiences. Turnberry there were, in reflection, a couple of bad choices down the stretch the last four holes. The Masters, he was beaten by a better guy on the day. The Open, an hour after, the only people that I could actually think of that could talk any sense to Lee were his two young children. I just said go to them for a while because they don’t know anything’s happened. Nobody else could say the right thing. That was a real tough 48 hours, and I spent a lot of the time with him in the 48 hours because they need you there when they’re winning but they need you there when they’re not.
GGP: What’s Westwood like away from the golf course?
CC: He’s a very very normal guy. Very.
GGP: He seems very comfortable in his own skin.
CC: I think so. His life’s in a great place.
GGP: Changing subjects, what do the Tim Finchems, the George O’Gradys, the Michael Whans of the world…
CC: Michael who?
GGP: The LPGA Commissioner.
CC: I’m not a lady.
GGP: I know that. What do these commissioners need to be focused on the next 10 years?
CC: Making the product better. I fear a bit for the product. I think we turn out an awful lot of the same and I think one of the most inspiring things of the last few weeks are the guys that have connected with the 20,000 people out there and I think they have to do that. They have to do that. Soccer players, NFL players all connect with the 70,000 people. And golfers, if they aren’t careful, can appear to be very focused on themselves.
GGP: What’s the first step?
CC: When a guy scores a goal in a soccer match, he goes and celebrates and he runs around and tears his shirt off, he shares it with the fans. Golfers don’t do that very well, and they have to. You go to Japan for a pro-am and the shotgun start is at 8:30 and it takes about six hours because they stop for about three meals. But every pro at the end of that six hours goes and has lunch with the amateurs. That should be compulsory. The European Tour should say to the sponsor you can only have 24 teams but we will guarantee 24 players will be at that lunch.
GGP: Favorite part of your job?
CC: Solving problems and trying to realize every guy we manage to his full potential. And that can be No. 1 in the world or that can be 50th in Europe. Whoever it is, I love seeing a young talent starting out and then going on Tour for the first time and all those steps. That would be one of the most rewarding.
CC: …Potential. Whoever it is. Just trying to help them, trying to be part of the system that helps them get perhaps not where they want to get to, because not everybody gets to where they want to get to, and I would probably have a better idea of how far they can get than they do.
GGP: The worst part of your job?
CC: The thing I hate most is going to a tournament and having nothing to do.
GGP: Which, you said, is how you felt at The Players this year. Why?
CC: They (the PGA Tour) have killed this tournament. May is the most ridiculous time of the year to have this tournament. It stops everybody’s schedule. The course isn’t as good as it used to be. The weather’s worse than it used to be, and there’s no buzz because it’s not in the lead up to The Masters. So whatever they thought it would do, they’ve made it worse.
GGP: Last question: Your epitaph?
CC: We had fun.