Rory McIlroy put a new Nike putter in his bag and a new shaft in his driver.
He has no way of knowing whether that means his second tournament of the year will last any longer than his first one.
The world’s No. 1 player made a big splash last month at the Abu Dhabi Championship in more ways than he imagined. He was introduced as Nike’s latest client, complete with a laser show and high expectations, only to miss the cut in his debut.
Next up is the Match Play Championship, which starts today in Marana, Ariz., with McIlroy as the top seed.
“I was packing my bags the other night and I’m thinking, ‘How many shirts did I bring? How many pairs of pants?’ Yeah, it’s one of those weeks where you’ve just go to try and get through every round, and you face different opposition every day.”
McIlroy reached the championship match a year ago, losing to Hunter Mahan.
So much has changed since then. He has risen to No. 1 in the world, won another major at the PGA Championship by a record eight shots, and then really drew attention to himself with a Nike deal said to be worth upward of $20 million a year.
After one tournament that lasted only two rounds, the skeptics included six-time major champion Nick Faldo. He said it was “dangerous” to change equipment.
Speaking from his own experience a generation ago, Faldo said that while the specifications can be duplicated, that doesn’t take into account the feel of the club, the sound it makes and the confidence that gets developed.
“Nick Faldo doesn’t know how I feel over the golf shot and I don’t know how he felt,” McIlroy said. “But my guess is he was a little more analytically minded than I am. I try and keep things as simple as possible. If I see the ball going in the direction that I want, in the flight that I want, then I’m happy. It feels good, and hopefully, I can show that to everyone this week.”
He opens against Shane Lowry. McIlroy will try to avoid becoming the third No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round in the past four years.
PRESIDENTIAL CRITIQUE: Tiger Woods delivered a “State of the Game” on President Obama’s golfing prowess and the news wasn’t all bad.
“If he ever spent – after these four years – spent more time playing the game of golf, I’m sure he could get to where he’s a pretty good stick,” Woods said Wednesday.
While he revealed very few details about his Sunday round with Obama at The Floridian, Woods at least made sure everyone knew that he and Obama won their match against Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and outgoing U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.