Rory McIlroy is back from vacation and ready to go deep into match play week. But first, the world No. 1, who missed the cut in his season-opener in Abu Dhabi a month ago, had a message for critics -- one in particular -- of his well-publicized switch from Titleist to Nike gear.
“Nick Faldo doesn’t know how I feel over the golf shot and I don’t know how he felt,” McIlroy told reporters on Tuesday a day before the start to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, in which he’s the top seed. “My guess is he was a little more analytically minded than I am. I try to keep things as simple as possible. If I see the ball going in the direction that I want in the flight that I want, then I'm happy. It feels good, and hopefully I can show that to everyone this week.”
McIlroy, sporting Tiger Woods-like facial hair as he prepared for his 2013 PGA Tour debut, was responding to criticism from six-time major champion Faldo, who warned that the Northern Irishman's mega-contract with Woods’ primary sponsor could be “dangerous” to his career.
The 23-year-old Ulsterman said he was not surpised to hear catcalls after spraying the ball all over the field at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and bombing out after 36 holes. He anticipated that a few minor tweaks to his Covert driver and a slight adjustment to his Nike putter would take care of the problems he experienced in the Middle East.
“It’s a little bit heavier,” McIlroy, who reverted to his Scotty Cameron Studio Select Newport GSS for the second round in Abu Dhabi, said about the addition of six grams of weight to the head of his Method 006 putter. He also had Nike adjust the shafts on both the driver and flat stick. “I’m actually much happier with how I’m swinging the club. I feel like I’ve turned the corner with my swing.”
After Nike’s glitzy introduction of him last month as the company’s newest cash cow, expectations were huge that McIlroy would come out swinging. He conceded that the hoopla surrounding his new deal played a role in his poor play.
“I probably put a little bit too much pressure on myself to play well because of that,” he said. “Abu Dhabi, it was a busy week, there was a lot going on, and I was just glad to get to the first tee ... and play some golf.
“I didn’t play as well as I would have liked, but I’ve had a nice few weeks off,” said McIlroy, who relaxed with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in the French Alps during his hiatus. “I feel like I’m coming into this event prepared and ready and swinging the club well. ... Hopefully, that can translate into playing some good golf and getting quite far into this week.”