Arrow or the Indian? Rory's troubles stem from equipment change

Stuart Franklin

Starting off a golf season with three horrific performances is one thing. Starting off poorly after a major equipment change? It's time to stop kidding ourselves about Rory McIlroy.

Can we all be honest with one another for a second?

Take a deep breath. Put up your feet. We're all friends here, right? Good. So let's have an honest discussion about Rory McIlroy's recent playing troubles and why his equipment should share some of the blame.

Wait, where are you going? Sit back down and hear me out.

Rory's sudden withdrawal from The Honda Classic this afternoon came as a shock to everyone. Twitter exploded with intrigue, snarky remarks (many of which were my own) and cries of condemnation toward Nike Golf. "Rory's just making excuses," many decreed. "It's his clubs, not his wisdom tooth!"

Ladies and gentlemen, I agree. Well... to a point.

As Yahoo! Sports golf writer Shane Bacon points out in a column from last week, Rory's recent poor play (missed cut in Abu Dhabi, first-round loss at the WGC Accenture Match Play and now this WD) has more to do with his mental game and less with his new clubs. Something is simply bothering the young Northern Irish lad between his ears. Once Rory gets his mind back on track, everything will be just fine.

While that is probably true, I'm not sure it excuses the new Nike sticks Rory is swinging these days.

Let's face it; a lot has changed for Rory over the last few months. He's been signed as the new face of Nike Golf, an honor once held by Tiger Woods, the man with whom he now must share the spotlight. With that contract McIlroy also agreed to completely do away with his old Titleist clubs in favor of Nike's new Covert driver, woods and irons. As golf legend and commentator Nick Faldo pointed out, this was a major change that should not be taken lightly.

"I tweeted right from when I heard the news, that this is dangerous," Faldo said at the time. "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 that you should be compensating and trying to find a way for this equipment to fit you. I mean, I think it's a very dangerous time."

A very dangerous time, indeed. A time when a plethora of changes have been imposed on a young superstar who has rightfully earned his time atop the mountain. Is it so wrong to deduce, then, that amid a whirlwind of change something as familiar as one's tools of his trade being taken away is kind of a big deal?

I have no doubt the Nike clubs Rory is using these days are of the highest quality, innovation and technology available on the market. I've used them myself; quite frankly, the Covert line is a work of golf art. The fact remains, however, that they are new to Rory and he is now contractually forced to make the most of his situation.

Are Rory's new golf clubs of a poor quality or defective? Absolutely not. But they are unfamiliar, uncommon and (dare I say) untrustworthy for the world's top golfer at this stage, mental block or no.

Until Rory comes to terms with his new equipment, flashes of the Honda Classic will stay fresh in his mind every time he addresses the golf ball.

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