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Teeing Off: What impact will Rory McIlroy have on Nike (And Tiger)

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we look at the new deal between Rory McIlroy and Nike, and what it could do to the golf world, the company and Tiger Woods.

Busbee: We've all seen the new Tiger Woods/Rory McIlroy commercial, and if nothing else, Rory will be hearing "Is that your real hair?" from galleries all year long. But this is a very conscious attempt by Nike to position (and re-position) these two guys as golf celebrity -- everyone alive in the '80s remembers the Jordan-Bird McDonald's commercial that's this one's great-granddaddy. Big question is, will it have the impact on the public at large that Nike hopes? What say you, Mr. Bacon?

Bacon: The reaction already has been pretty tremendous after just a few hours. Rory and Tiger on the same screen rocking the same company? It's like golfer porn!

I will say that I think anytime the company can put these guys together they must. Neither has the type of personality that is going to push them to host SNL, but I definitely think they bring something special out in one another. This commercial will never be as popular as that Bird-Jordan one was that we've all watched hundreds of times, but for an initial move by Nike, I think it works. But now where do they go? Tiger actually cutting Rory's hair in the next ad?

Busbee: You've got to figure they're going stunt golf-shots soon -- off the Hollywood sign, pinging around the Eiffel Tower, that kind of stuff. Now, this is very clearly a transitional ad -- not quite passing the torch, but allowing Rory on the same stage as Tiger. How long do you think Tiger has at the top of the golf pantheon? I mean, we still see Jordan all over the place, but from a basketball-ad perspective it's clearly LeBron's world. Will we be seeing Tiger doing bacon-neck ads for the next two decades?

Bacon: I definitely think Nike had a purpose with this ad that was deeper than just two huge names having some fun with the golf ball and it's what you said; Rory is in Tiger's world now and we all better get used to it.

As for the Tiger thing, golf is a strange sport in the sense that it takes forever for us to get over a certain player. I mean, Arnold Palmer is still cool in our eyes, and Greg Norman's shirts are still at every pro shop in the country. I think we will see a lot of this pairing done by Nike, but as for Tiger's legacy, I still see him with a solid decade ahead at the top of the game.

Busbee: Anything you can see (performance-based, not scandal-based) that could change that? What if Rory goes on to win four or five majors in the next couple years? What if Tiger doesn't win another major again?

Bacon: I actually wrote this in another piece and think it holds true here; McIlroy needs to win the Masters. There isn't anything like it in our sport, and if he could win an epic Masters like that one that Phil Mickelson won I think it would land him the buzz to possibly leapfrog Tiger as the most popular in the sport.

Sports fans watch the U.S. Open, they care about the history behind the British and the PGA is there, but to win at Augusta National, especially this year after his two major wins in two years, might just do that.

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