Rory Mcllroy's Golf Club Change Brings a Vortex of Doubt

Robert Hartman@@RobertHartman20Correspondent IFebruary 26, 2013

Do the clubs make a difference.
Do the clubs make a difference.Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The heartbeat of the unknown.

Rory Mcllroy's decision to climb aboard the Nike logo brings a familiar collective gasp from the gallery.

Much like his tee shot on the 10th tee in the final round of the 2011 Masters, it has brought a "What have you done, Rory?" With the decision comes some unbridled expectations that can't be answered in a swift stroke of the pen, like on a check or detailed in a cheeky ad.


Gone are hickory shafts, but as technology drives the industry, so does the leaderboard. Will Nike be satisfied with a two-time major winner struggling to make the cut with his new equipment? Can a brand offer inferior equipment that discredits the talent? These are questions that will be answered as the 2013 season unfurls.  

Or have they already been answered?

His first-round exit from the Accenture Match Play event was cushioned by his fellow Nike comrade, Tiger Woods. Mcllroy has won two majors with clubs that afforded him a confidence.

But for every artist staring at a blank canvas, the true inspiration comes from the body and not the paint brush. It's not the arrow, it's the Indian. Or is it? Ian Poulter loves to dabble with new equipment—sports cars. The clubs are not supposed to be impersonal.

However, Mcllroy is not the first player to change alliances for the almighty dollar. Somewhere deep inside his brain is a notion that his success is due partly to the equipment. It is natural to try and couch his arrogance in his ability and not a brand. It's just a golf club.

In 2004, Phil Mickelson also left Titleist. The left-hander switched to Callaway and the move was not an overnight sensation. His first Masters was in his back pocket and there was an assumption that the new clubs would heighten his game. There was an adjustment period.

And so, Mcllroy has called the Nick Faldo "I told you so" excitement to stay at home for now. He has said respectfully that the process will be a gradual one (per ESPN).

But, just as the Toyotas struggled at Daytona, I think we will have to wait until the golfers finish the first turn—the Masters. Then we can make a prediction on whether the 14 clubs in Mcllroy's bag are golf clubs or just golf clubs.