Did Nike Golf Make a Mistake Signing Rory McIlroy to the Huge Contract?

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIFebruary 22, 2013

How would you like to grab up the hottest young player in golf as your representative? Nike did just that when it scooped up Rory McIlroy in the offseason as a brand representative for the Nike Swoosh.

Though the exact total is not official, The New York Times says it's "reported to be worth as much as $100 million over five years to $250 million over 10 years provided McIlroy reaches a long list of incentives."

A two-time major winner over the last two years and ranked No. 1 in the world, McIlroy is the next great thing, a "can’t-miss kid."

McIlroy has played in two events since making his big announcement in January. In Abu Dhabi he shot 75-75 and missed the cut. His scores were actually better than his play indicated. He was missing his drives both right and left, his iron play was not crisp and his putting was woeful.

Just one year ago at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, McIlroy was the runner-up to Hunter Mahan.

He and his Nike gear got bounced this year in the first round by the No. 64 seed, Shane Lowry.

After a chip-in birdie at No. 12 and an eagle at No. 13 to take a two-up lead, Lowry had nothing to lose and kept the pressure on for the one-up win. 

These consecutive missed cuts are anything but the norm for the 23-year-old phenom.

McIlroy led after every round and won the 2011 U.S. Open on a difficult Congressional Golf Course by eight shots. He also won the 2012 PGA Championship by eight shots at Kiawah Island for his second major title.

In addition to the PGA Championship, he won three other events on the PGA Tour in 2012 and had over $8 million in earnings for the year. 

He also won a couple times on the European Tour last year and won their Race to Dubai. Throw in the PGA Tour’s Vardon Trophy for good measure, and you have one of the best years ever.

In the offseason, Nike offered mega bucks to McIlroy to switch equipment companies. He had played Titleist since he started swinging a golf club, but money talks, and the other stuff walks.

McIlroy took a long respite from competitive golf at the end of 2012 and only has three competitive rounds under his belt thus far in 2013 with his new sticks.

McIlroy's transition to the new clubs hasn't exactly been seamless.  In Abu Dhabi, he ended up ditching the Nike Method putter for his trusty old Titleist Scotty Cameron.  

"We understand it takes time. It's a process and we are confident he'll change when he's ready," Nike said in a statement after the tournament.

You can stand on the range and beat balls until your hands bleed and watch Trackman numbers until you become dizzy. Practice simply does not simulate the pressure inside the ropes of a professional golf tournament.

McIlroy will figure it out. Maybe not for several weeks, but he will figure it out. He is just too good.

Compare this segment of time in McIlroy’s golf career to one of Tiger Woods’ celebrated swing-change adventures.

Although Nike looks pretty bad right now, the brand works for Tiger, and it will work for Rory too.

Patience, golf fans. Patience.