Nike splashes huge image of Rory McIlroy on a San Diego high-rise

Ross Kinnaird

Where’s Rory (Part Deux)? On the side of a building in San Diego, of course.

Rory McIlroy has been MIA from competitive golf since missing the cut last month in Abu Dhabi, but his new sponsor has gone to great lengths (or, rather, heights) to ensure the golfing world does not forget about the new face of Nike Golf.

Now appearing in a Nike cap and swinging a VR_S Covert driver, a huge image of the world No. 1 festoons the side of a multi-story building in San Diego.


(Photo: Twitter via @nikegolf)

Which is curious, since the two-time major champ was not in the field at last month’s Farmers Insurance Open at nearby Torrey Pines and won’t haul his new multi-million-dollar Nike contract up the coast for this week’s National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach.

Speaking of that colossal equipment deal, McIlroy’s first event with his new gear did not go so well, which led two-time major winner Sandy Lyle to worry about the impact that changing clubs could have on the young lad from Northern Ireland.

The 54-year-old Lyle told Reuters on Monday that he hoped the switch would not cause McIlroy’s career to go into a "kamikaze dive" similar to the swoon that David Duval suffered when he swapped his Titleist sticks for the Nike swoosh.

Duval, like McIlroy, was No. 1 in the world rankings in 1999, and won the British Open in 2001. Then, like McIlroy, he left Titleist for Nike, which, according to Lyle, sent Duval into a tailspin from which he has yet to recover.

"That move hurt the momentum of David's career," Lyle said. "He wasn't driving the ball well, which put the pressure on his putting and that in turn put pressure on him making cuts. David then started on a horrible spiral of missing cuts. It could be that all stemmed from his problems with his new driver and it could be the same thing for Rory now."

Adding his voice to the Nick Faldo-led choir of observers skeptical about McIlroy’s club change, Lyle said the move could be "very dangerous" for the world’s top golfer.

"David never got out of his spiral," Lyle said about Duval, who, coincidentally, announced on Monday he had re-signed with Nike after splitting with the company in 2010, and will play in this week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "He definitely took a huge kamikaze dive and never really got it back."

McIlroy's countryman, Graeme McDowell, sought to downplay the naysaying about his friend's new golf supplies. To McDowell, who will make his first PGA Tour start of the season next week at Riviera, it’s internal pressure and not the brand stamped on his clubs that may be messing with McIlroy’s game.

"When you’re as talented as Rory McIlroy, I don’t really care what your driver says, I don’t really care what your iron says or what your golf ball says," McDowell said Monday on Golf’ Channel’s "Morning Drive" program. "When you’re as good as he is, it’s a transition that should be pretty straightforward for him to make.

The biggest hurdle that he has right now is in his mind, the pressure that is put on him by the world media, by people, and most importantly the pressures he’s put on himself from inside him. He’s just got to get across the hurdle of playing well a few times with the new equipment," McDowell said. "He’s a talented kid. I’ve never seen a guy make the game look so easy. It doesn’t matter what it says on the back of his iron. He’ll be okay, and it’s just a matter of time before he settles down and just comes to terms with what’s in his heads in regards to the pressures he’s created for himself."

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