Rory McIlroy has hit back at critics of his caddie and best mate Harry Diamond ahead of next week's US Open at Torrey Pines.
McIlroy had been enduring something of a dip in form earlier this season, and as a result it led a number of people to question whether the Ulsterman should re-consider a more experienced looper.
Diamond was given the role as McIlroy's caddie back in 2017 after the former World No.1 let go of JP Fitzgerald following a nine-year partnership.
Fitzgerald, who was on the bag for all of McIlroy's four career majors, is now caddying for Victor Perez on the European Tour.
While Diamond was only supposed to be on the bag for McIlroy as a short-term solution while he considered his options moving forward, McIlroy still has his best mate on the bag heading into a big summer of golf in 2021.
The pair have won six times together around the world, including most recently last month at Quail Hollow, and have even scooped the PGA Tour's lucrative FedEx Cup alongside one another.
McIlroy is more than happy to continue using the services of Diamond moving forwards, and believes the negativity surrounding his caddie's name in recent months has been unfair.
"This was supposed to be a short-term thing back in 2017, and I ended up really enjoying it, really liking it, and he – we made the decision that this was going to be a long-term thing, and it’s worked out great. We’ve had six wins together," said McIlroy.
"I think the reason I wanted to single Harry out, as well, I feel like he gets some negativity around the relationship that’s very unfair, uncalled for. People don’t know him, don’t really know me. They sort of see things from the outside and from their own perspective, but they don’t really know."
McIlroy also paid tribute to Diamond, yet again, for the call he made on the 72nd hole en route to winning the Wells Fargo Championship for a third time in his career just four weeks ago.
With a two-shot lead up the last, Diamond stopped McIlroy from taking on a shot perilously close to the creek and instead got him to take a drop in order to play safe and make a winning bogey-five.
"I wanted to make a point of Harry was 100 per cent the person that told me not to hit that ball on 18 in the creek, and if it wasn’t for him, I probably would have lost the tournament because I’d still probably be trying to hack it out of there," he added.
"I’m like a dog, if I see a golf ball I want to hit it. It’s there. Or if someone puts a football in front of me I want to kick it. I saw the ball, I wanted to hit it.
"He’s like, let’s just think about this. That was the reason I wanted to single it out, because he kept a cool head when maybe I wasn’t in the best place. And yeah, because of that unfair criticism that I think he’s gotten over the last couple years, I wanted to just make a point of we know what we’re doing out there."
McIlroy will bid to win the US Open for a second time in his career at Torrey Pines next week.