Who can complete the 'Chubby Slam'?

Agent whose stable has won the year's first three majors tells James Corrigan what shape his players are in heading to Atlanta

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"The Chubby Slam" may sound like a canvas-rocking tactic employed by the likes of Giant Haystacks in the Seventies wrestling scene but, in fact, it could be the most remarkable achievement in the history of British sports management.

If one of the nine players overseen by ISM prevails at next week's USPGA Championship it will mean that this agency in Cheshire has won all four majors in 2011. The boss is one Chubby Chandler, for whom the description "larger than life" seems invented.

Chandler, a former pro whose decade and a half on Tour never reached a higher peak than winning in Sao Paulo, set up ISM in 1989 with a £10,000 overdraft and, in his own words, "not much of a clue". Twenty-two years later and he boasts such strength of hand that suddenly he has become the story. Despite Chandler's fondness of a tape recorder he finds this bizarre. "I'm embarrassed about everyone calling it the 'Chubby Slam'," says the Boltonian. "Let's face it, it's because of my nickname and it sounds good. If I had just remained plain old Andrew Chandler, nobody would have been going on about the 'Andrew Slam' would they? And neither should they. It should be all about the players and when the golf gets started next Thursday, thankfully it will be."

Chandler waited more than 80 majors and two decades for ISM's breakthrough, but Louis Oosthuizen's win at last year's Open started the run of four majors from the last five. "Of course it will mean plenty to ISM if we can sweep the majors," he says. "Yes, it would be a testament to the brilliant staff we have; but more so to our guys with the clubs in their hands. What a bunch they are. Each of them is different."

And each of them take some explaining. Chandler sat down with The Independent to outline their chances of landing the dream four-timer at Atlanta Athletic Club in a week's time.

Lee Westwood

"After more than a decade of electing otherwise, Lee is finally seeing a sports psychologist in Bob Rotella and I think it will do an awful lot for him. When you keep on doing the same thing, you get the same results. You can't expect anything else.

"So Lee's taken action. And the fact Dr Bob has freed up his mind on the greens and Dave Stockton has given him more rhythm with his putter is why he is much more 'up' than you'd imagine for a world No 2 who has just missed the cut at the Open. In Akron this week, I think that at 16-1 he was the best bet to win a golf tournament that I've ever known. Serious. That's how well he's responded to his Sandwich disappointment where he actually led the tee-to-green stats, but was shocking with the putter.

"After that we knew we had to do something. We sat down and had a really good session, and went into much bigger detail than people might suspect. We got the stats out, got all this data out and really analysed it.

"Yeah he lipped out a lot at Sandwich, but it wasn't unlucky because it was happening all the time. Plenty was said about 'poor old Lee' after the Open, watching four of his stablemates winning majors and him still waiting. It wasn't like that, Lee isn't like that. But I will say that if he won in Atlanta it will make the year complete for me.

"Certainly nobody in the game deserves a major more. Look at his record. Before Sandwich he had finished in the top three of five of his previous seven majors. That's incredible consistency. Believe me, it'll be his time soon."

Rory McIlroy

"People forget he's 22 and forget what they, themselves, were like when they were 22. Life has a habit of changing quickly when you're that age and when you're as successful as he is, 'quickly' hits the fast-forward button.

"So he is leaning towards re-taking his PGA Tour card, buying a place in America and playing more over there. There's many factors why.

"So much has changed since [winning the US Open at] Congressional. He's five times more famous in Northern Ireland than he was and can't move at all. His personal circumstances have changed as well. Again, he's only 22. That happens.

"But the main reason for the move will be if he thinks it will ultimately benefit his golf. And, it's obvious, the courses suit his high ball-flight etc. We had always planned to meet up on Monday at the USPGA and discuss what happens next season. His father, Gerry, will also be at the 'sit-down' and Gerry happens to be common sense personified. The only thing I'll ask Rory about America is if he can handle playing in the FedEx Cup. If he can, then he should join.

"Of course, he has a big chance at Atlanta Athletic Club. The course is absolutely perfect for him. It appears to be the old traditional American course, like Quail Hollow, where he won and, of course, Congressional. The only thing we might worry about is the bent grass on the greens.

"I definitely don't have any worries how he has reacted after his US Open win. He's exactly where he should be mentally. There's been a few supposed 'controversies', but they won't have bothered him. Not a bit. Not much bothers Rory.

"Usually he plays his best golf at the start of a run rather than the end. He'll have to do it the other way around now because the USPGA will be his third in a row. But he's well capable of doing that.

"I'll be able to tell instantly whether Rory's right or wrong and how well he will do – just by his demeanour. At the Open he wasn't quite right. Come back and ask me on Wednesday."

Darren Clarke

"I think Darren will play great. He should be over the tiredness and the Open hangover by then. Last week's Irish Open was a tough week for them. It was for all the Irish boys. They are flogged at the event – totally milked. It's a bit daft, really.

"Darren's said himself, he has to rediscover the mood he was in at Sandwich, when he was calm and could not be fazed. That used to only happen once every three years, but now he's got a Claret Jug it may well happen more.

"The one thing he has now that he always used to beat himself up over is fulfilment. There's also the security of knowing you're in the big events. When you've been playing in Sicily and Morocco for the last two years that's important. A lot of things have happened for Darren on the back of Sandwich. Yeah, the monkey is off his back, but there's also been the financial side of it as he did have a few cash-flow issues as he tried to sell his house in Surrey. Suddenly those issues aren't there any more. People may be surprised but Darren's an intense lad who gets very down and lets things get to him.

"All that's swept out of the way and I think he'll become a really good character for the game. He used to wear that big smile only when he was playing well.

"Now he's got it on all the time. He has nothing to worry about and he could be dangerous in that mood. Don't forget Mark O'Meara was in his forties when he won his first major. And then followed up very quickly."

David Horsey

"It will be interesting to see if he is long enough, but this will be great experience for him. 'Giddy', as we call him as in 'giddy-up', needs to make the cut, have a proper week and come to terms with how good he can be. He's a good solid player who could have a great future."

Simon Dyson

"I think Simon's due to get into the mix in a major, to get in there where it hurts. At the Open he did great, coming under the radar to finish tied for ninth.

"He was obviously a good bet for last week's Irish Open, but nobody realised until he won. The next step for Simon is to get in there, 36-hole lead, and see how it feels. He is a great iron player and knows how to get over the line."

Ernie Els

"No doubt Ernie can take a bit out of what Darren [Clarke] achieved at Sandwich as my other big man is actually a year younger. But he's got to settle down on the course.

"If the putter works Ernie's a different person. I was with him in Portugal earlier this week and he's a lot better than he was.

"But he's got to go out there and prove it to himself. Not to anyone else. He's got three majors, is loved everywhere, but there's still something gnawing away inside. He doesn't want to be the forgotten man – which, of course, he never will be – and that's almost the problem.

"If he has a good week in Akron, he'll have a good week in Atlanta. And vice versa. The immense talent is still there and Ernie has one or two big ones left in him. I'm sure, he has."

Louis Oosthuizen

"Some daft things have happened to Louis since he won the Open. Falling down potholes, eye infections, viruses... then this week being involved in a car crash. He's never been able to get into a run of form. Golf's all about rhythm and the circumstances haven't allowed any for Louis.

"Saying that, Louis does need pushing now and again. We had a go at him in Wentworth and now it's probably the time again.

"He and Charl are very close but they're chalk and cheese. The only thing they have similar is the way they talk and they happen to be major-winners. And ISM, of course."

Charl Schwartzel

"I think he'll contend. Actually he'll soon be one of the best players in the world. Charl is underestimated, but, in a funny sort of way, that'll suit him.

"Charl quietly goes about his business and has an inner confidence. He knows how to finish it off. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he won in Atlanta. He played well at the Open and is a proper player. He birdied the last four holes to win at Augusta, for goodness sake.

"You need three majors to become a legend and I am certain Charl will get at least to three. He is the full package."

Gregory Bourdy

"He's a driven Frenchman, who will do almost anything he needs to do to make it. At the Open this year he ate every night with Lee and Darren, and Louis and Charl. Simon was there every night as well.

"I'm telling you, it's great to be around success. They weren't listening to players moaning about booking flights home early; they were listening to players talking about winning majors.

"Success is infectious. I think the ISM boys have proved that this season. Hey, we are in danger of having an epidemic."