Late Friday night, the Golf Channel aired a segment called "The State of the Game," something they've been doing for three years with some of the biggest names in the broadcasting business. Basically the idea is to bat around the hot-button topics in the golf world for the likes of Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo and see what comes from it.
And despite the fact that Rory McIlroy is no longer in Marana, Ariz., he was a big part of what was talked about. The reason? Because Rory switched equipment in the offseason and he hasn't played well in his first two events with the new Nike stuff.
"I tweeted right from when I heard the news, that this is dangerous," said Faldo. "People say, 'Well he's so darned good, he can compensate.' But I don't feel when you've climbed that wonderful climb to world No. 1 that you should be compensating and trying to find a way for this equipment to fit you. I mean, I think it's a very dangerous time."
Now I respect Faldo for all he does and really like the guy as a broadcaster, but are we seriously going to sit here after one stroke play event and one match play loss and say that McIlroy has made some career-wrecking decision by signing a nine-figure deal with a company that has been in the bag for one of the most successful golfers in the history of the game?
Rory played poorly in Abu Dhabi, and didn't improve much at the Accenture, but the thing that a lot of people need to realize is, as Lee Trevino once said, "it's not the arrows, it's the indian." Rory's Nike wedge didn't blade the bunker shot into the desert on Thursday against Shane Lowry and it isn't the putter change that is making him push putts. Rory is simply not playing good golf right now.
Faldo might have been right about equipment changes in 1990 or 1996, but every equipment company in the world these days is churning out solid stuff that you could put in the hands of any professional golfer and see immediate positive results. A Nike driver is going to have incredible technology, just like a TaylorMade will and a Ping and a Cleveland. The dirty little secret in golf business right now is that it's all really f-ing good.
This isn't about equipment. Not at all, and even if it is, you're going to bash a guy for taking $100 million for an equipment change and to be the face of an entire global company alongside the most successful golfer of this generation? Even if it takes Rory six months to get back to where he was with his old stuff, isn't the return on investment pretty high when you see how much he made be changing companies?
What Rory needs is reps. Tournament golf is a completely different beast than hitting balls on the range of playing 18 holes with your buddies, and Rory has now played twice in two months. If he wants to get his feel back, or his swing, he simply needs to be in more events (which is about to happen as the season moves into another gear).
Professional golfers tinker and change equipment more than anybody on this planet, week to week, so this isn't some new development with McIlroy or, frankly, any golfer.
Lee Westwood was asked about the club changes by Rory earlier in the week and said, "It will, it might, and everybody will blow it out of all proportion, won't they? We all change equipment quite regularly out here, and he's done that, and he's‑‑ I've changed the ball three times this year already, and drivers a couple of times. It's no different, he's just changed manufacturers, which you get used to one manufacturer and working with their people, and then you have to work with another manufacturer and different people."
McIlroy will be fine. He's in the field next week at the Honda Classic, a tournament he won a season ago to ascend to No. 1 in the world, and no matter if he wins or doesn't, it will be more about the way he prepares, and swings the club, than what brand is affixed to the side of his hat.
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