Rory McIlroy Will Face a Difficult Decision in the Coming Weeks

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 27:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the third round of the BMW Masters at the Lake Malaren Golf Club on October 27, 2012 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy’s decision to part ways with Titleist at the end of December puts the 23-year-old Northern Irishman in a very difficult situation.

One the one hand, McIlroy will likely earn one the most lucrative equipment contracts the game has ever seen.

One the other hand, McIlroy has used Titleist equipment for his nine professional wins, including two major championships over the past five years. That has catapulted him to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings.

McIlroy is considered to be one of the best drivers of the ball in the game…with his Titleist 913D3 prototype driver.

McIlroy’s distance and the height with which he hits the ball have been marveled at for years…while using a Titleist Pro v1x golf ball.

McIlroy’s game certainly ain’t broke, yet he’s trying to fix it, or at least he’s willing to meddle with it for a larger equipment contract.

You’d be completely naive to think that professional golf isn’t just as much about the money as it is about the wins, glory and success. At the end of the day, professional golfers earn their living playing golf, and a large part of that living comes from their sponsorships and equipment contracts.

So, you can’t really fault a 23-year-old for looking to set himself up financially for the rest of his life with one massive equipment contract.

That being said, there is also a give and take here, particularly if McIlroy does decide to sign with Nike, which produces equipment that most of the golfing industry views as inferior to the more established equipment brands such as Titleist, Taylor Made and Callaway.

“I call it dangerous,” Nick Faldo said yesterday on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. “I’ve changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, ‘We can copy your clubs; we can tweak the golf ball so it fits you.’ But there’s feel and sound as well, and there’s confidence. You can’t put a real value on that. It’s priceless.

“You have to be very, very careful. You easily could go off and do this and it messes you up because it just doesn’t quite feel the same. When you’re striping it, it’s fine. But as soon as doubt comes in…

“I’d be very cautious. I’d love someone like him, in his position, to sell the bag. That bag is worth a fortune; it’d be on TV all the time. Stick with the clubs that you know best, that you believe the best.

“It’s really important. It’s the feel and confidence of knowing that your equipment will perform how you want it to perform on Sunday afternoon. You can’t mess with that at such a young age.”

Faldo makes a great point; one that McIlroy will undoubtedly have to wrestle with in the coming weeks.

Does he go for a big payday with a flashy company like Nike and risk being an incredibly wealthy 23-year-old who is now unable to perform the way he used to on the golf course, or does he go for a slightly less lucrative equipment deal that will put higher quality equipment in his hands?

For most of the top players in the game, equipment does not completely make or break a player. A great player is still going to be great whether he is using Titleist, Callaway, Taylor Made or Nike golf clubs…just ask Tiger Woods about that.  

That being said, you cannot completely overlook the possibility that a great player MIGHT not be quite as great when using inferior equipment, and McIlroy must now wrestle with whether the “might” is worth it.

For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.