Rory McIlroy’s equipment change, as we opined on Friday it would, remained the subject of much discussion and scrutiny a day after the world No. 1 bombed out early of his second consecutive tournament while struggling with his new Nike clubs.
"I tweeted right from when I heard the news, that this is dangerous," Nick Faldo, an early critic of McIlroy’s decision to ditch the Titleist gear that propelled him to the top of the world rankings and two world championships in favor of Tiger Woods’ favored brand, said Friday night during Golf Channel’s “State of the Game” roundtable. "I said, ‘This is a very dangerous thing because you don't want to mess with your confidence, your trust in your equipment.’”
Johnny Miller agreed, pointing to his own experience with new clubs.
"It's very dangerous like you say. I went through the same thing," said Miller, the owner of two major titles. "I decided to switch and I switched everything. And I mean, I was like a fish out of water, I was gasping for air....So the minute I heard that he was going to switch everything, I'm thinking, 'Wow, that's a gamble.'"
McIlroy came out as a high-priced Swoosh salesman in a glitzy introduction ahead of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last month. With a reported $200 million contract in his pocket and unfamiliar sticks in his bag, he had trouble finding the fairway and missed the cut.
Prior to his one-and-done loss to Shane Lowry in Thursday’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, McIlroy swung back at Faldo for the six-time major champion’s attack on his decision to switch. While he seemed to have his new Nike Covert driver under better control Thursday, he struggled all day with his irons as well as his Nike Method putter, which he adjusted after putting his old Scotty Cameron model back in the bag for the second round in the Middle East.
Following his opening-round loss in Arizona, McIlroy blamed rust from a lengthy layoff and not his clubs for his early exit, but Faldo was not buying the excuse.
“People say well he's so darned good, he can compensate. But I don't feel when you've climbed that wonderful climb to world No. 1 you should be compensating and trying to find a way for this equipment to fit you,” Faldo said. “I mean, I think it's a very dangerous time.”
For sure, McIlroy has supplied Faldo and other skeptics with plenty of ammunition for their assaults on his decision-making, and the six-time PGA Tour winner noted he had put pressure on himself to perform. He also heard it from critics during a mid-season slump that included three missed cuts last year -- all while he was still a Titleist player.
McIlroy played his way out of that swoon and many observers, including Brandel Chamblee, believe he will find a way once again to tame his wayward game.
“This is a brand change only,” Chamblee said, taking the contrarian view to that of his colleagues. “This is not a philosophical change in the type of golf clubs that he is playing....What Rory McIlroy is doing, he's going to switch to the exact same clubs and they are going to say Nike on them.”
Even Chamblee, however, wondered about how long it would take McIlroy to settle in with his new clubs.
“Now, the amount of time that it's taken him to make that change is questionable,” he said. “It is going to take him a little bit of time to adjust to those.”
McIlroy’s next attempt to get his new clubs under control starts Thursday when he’ll begin a defense of his Honda Classic title.