Rory McIlroy drove a Titleist 913D3 prototype to his second major title, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August. Indeed, the world’s best golfer has played nothing but Titleist sticks since he turned pro in 2007 and set about establishing himself as the man to beat all over the globe.
On the cusp of tossing his Titleist clubs into the garage and stuffing his golf bag full of Nike gear, the world No. 1 brushed aside others’ concerns that changing to new sticks could affect his mental and physical games. Rubbish, was the 23-year-old Northern Irishman’s response to second-guessers like Golf Channel’s Nick Faldo, who has led the charge of pundits openly wondering if an equipment adjustment would stall McIlroy’s march toward world domination of the European and PGA Tours.
Faldo, the winner of six majors, termed McIlroy’s switch-er-oo “dangerous” and counseled the golfer not to stray from the clubs with which he sharpened his skills. (Of course, Sir Nick is of the same old school that disapproves of rivals like McIlroy and Woods fraternizing outside the ropes.)
McIlroy, however, wasn’t buying into the fear factor and said he would require no extreme makeover, golf edition.
"No, not at all,” he told reporters Tuesday about whether he was anxious that switching brands might threaten his on-course skills or self-assurance. "I think all the manufacturers make great equipment nowadays and it's all very similar -- a lot of them get their clubs made at the same factories. I don't think it will make any difference."
McIlroy, who announced last month that he would not renew his contract with Titleist when it expired on Dec. 31, 2012, will tee it up with the equipment from Titleist’s parent company, Acushnet, for the last time at this week’s World Tour Championship in Dubai. Speculation persists that McIlroy has inked a reported 10-year, $250 million deal with Nike to help his pal Tiger Woods shill for the swoosh. And as he noted during his pre-tourney presser -- and illustrated during a recent one-on-one exhibition with Woods -- McIlroy had already fiddled with his new toys.
"I've started the process of trying a few new things," McIlroy said. "I'm still playing with my Titleist clubs -- this is the last week -- but I've tinkered about a little bit with the new ones, enough to feel comfortable going into next season."
No doubt, but whatever tools of the trade he carries, it may be difficult for the young Ulsterman to match a season like the one that will end on Sunday. In addition to four PGA Tour wins, McIlroy bounced back and forth with Luke Donald for the top spot in the world rankings, finally grabbing it for good -- and some believe for the foreseeable future -- in August.
McIlroy also equaled Donald’s 2011 feat of earning the money titles on both the PGA and European Tours.
"I've had four goes at [the Euro cash crown] and it was great to be able to do it this year," he said. "It's been a phenomenal year but I've still got one tournament left and I want to finish the season strong by picking up two trophies at the end of the week."