Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy leave Abu Dhabi on Friday with their tails between their legs -- Tiger for screwing up a rather basic rule, which cost him a shot at the weekend, and Rory for wasting no time in returning his trusty Scotty Cameron putter back to his all-Nike bag and still missing the cut by a wide margin.
In addition to the red faces the two superstars must be sporting after pulling the curtain on the 2013 Rory & Tiger Show that clearly was not ready for Broadway, the company that rolled out the red carpet for its newest superstar earlier this week had to be displeased with what McIlroy had to say about his new Method putter.
“I just felt like I wasn’t getting the ball to the hole,” McIlroy told Golf Channel after his second straight 3-over 75, which put him four shots south of the projected cut line. “The greens here are a little slow and the Nike putter I used yesterday was quite light, so for practicing on fast greens it’s great but when you get on greens that aren’t quite as quick, like here, I felt like I was having to hit it a bit more.
“So it was just a weird issue. The one I used today is a little heavier and felt like I could stroke it a bit more.”
Ouch! All those pyrotechnics, the laser light show, and the over-the-top pomp and circumstance that surrounded Monday’s Rory-palooza seem even cheesier and more embarrassing than they did then.
Sure, it’s only the second day of the season but it took McIlroy exactly one round to decide he had a better chance of surviving the cut with old reliable than with the Nike Method he praised earlier in the week.
“I was blown away by the groove technology...and how well the ball rolls coming off the club face. I’m really confident in this equipment and really excited to put it into play this week,” McIlroy said during Monday’s dog-and-pony show. “I’m really happy with the putter that I have in the bag. I’ve practicted with it and feel really comfortable with it....From now on I'll be playing a Method putter.”
Who knew “from now on” meant 18 holes?
McIlroy apparently did his best to disguise the change, with reports from the course that he placed a Nike head cover on Scotty. In the end, it made little difference, since McIlroy ended up with 30 putts, just one fewer than he needed on Thursday, so Nike’s got that going for it. But how can anyone look at the situation and not determine that Rory rejected the club for which he had supposedly been perfectly fitted?
All in all, a bad week for Woods and McIlroy, but maybe even a worse week for Nike. On top of its two money men bagging it in Abu Dhabi, news broke that the amusing ad they made, supposedly together, was shot on different days, and the two of them played, as a Golf Channel yakker noted, like they were knocking it around in a pro-am with a couple of Nike suits.
So who’s having a good week, other than Abu Dhabi leader Justin Rose? The Titleist crew must be having a difficult time containing their glee, after getting the short end of the stick for so many weeks building up to McIlroy’s switch-er-oo.
Obviously, there’s a long way to go in the season and plenty of chance for both golfers to bounce back. In fact, given the outcome, McIlroy may decide to add another event in the interim, since he clearly needs to shake off a lot of rust and get in some reps with his new gear.
“I’m a little disappointed, obviously,” McIlroy said. “It’s the start of the season and you want to get off to a good one. Every year that I’ve played well I’ve got off to a good start, I’ve played well in this tournament but... it’s just the way it is.
“I need to go to the range and work on a few things,” he said. "I don’t feel like I’ve swung the club at all well the last couple of days. Put in a few hours Saturday and Sunday here and try to figure it out.”
At least McIlroy cleared up one question for gear geeks -- he clearly has the Tiger Woods clause in his Nike contract, the one that allows him to use his old putter if warranted. Woods had the same caveat in his pact when he moved from TItleist to Nike in 2000.