Rory McIlroy says struggles with new clubs are over
In early March, Jack Nicklaus said Rory McIlroy, who was struggling with his game and dealing with questions about switching golf club manufacturers in the offseason, would be “just fine” by the Masters Tournament.
The 23-year-old was less than two months into his much-publicized switch from Titleist to Nike clubs and balls.
Now, he is 16-under par in his past eight rounds and coming off a second-place finish in the Texas Open on Sunday, a tournament he added at the last minute to shake off competitive rust.
“I’m very comfortable and I’m 100 percent there,” McIlroy said Tuesday when asked about his Nike clubs. “I’m really comfortable with everything, and I feel like they are a part of me now and that’s the way a golf club should be.”
Early in his career, Nicklaus changed clubs three times during a season without any effect on his performance.
“In the United States, I played MacGregors,” he said. “When I went to England and played in the British Open, I played Slazenger England. When I went to Australia, I played Slazenger Australia. I had three sets of clubs. I played the English small ball, I played the B-51 small ball and I played the MacGregor ball here.
“I was able to go back and forth. It wasn’t that big a deal. Maybe the guys today are so used to having one thing. I almost feel like it’s your talent that plays, not your golf clubs.”
On an ESPN teleconference last week, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange agreed with Nicklaus.
“I changed clubs three or four times in my career, and it took me about a day to get used to the look and the feel,” Strange said. “There’s never a different feel because they match the clubs. In Rory’s case I know this is a question, but Nike has matched the clubs to the exact dimensions that the Titleists were.
In early March, Nicklaus said “Rory is so talented” that he shouldn’t have problems adjusting to new clubs.
Before Doral in mid-March, McIlroy said it was his swing, not his clubs, that was the problem. Partly to blame, he said, was his light early-season schedule. He began his year shooting 75-75 to miss the cut at Abu Dhabi, lost in the first
round at the Match Play Championship, then walked off the course at the Honda Classic after 26 holes.
Since then, he has tied for eighth at Doral with a final-round 65, tied for 45th at the Houston Open and was second in the Texas Open.
Strange agreed that the clubs weren’t McIlroy’s problem early on.
“I’ve read all of this in the last month, two months, because Rory hasn’t played well, and I can honestly tell you I thoroughly believe it has nothing to do with the equipment,” Strange said.
Justin Rose said the adjustment period to new clubs is “within three tournaments, I would say. I would say you’re going to know one way or the other.”
McIlroy had faith in his new clubs and planned to stick with the full set from the start. Some players exchange a new club or two with old, trusted ones during the transition period until they are fully committed to the new set.
“I wanted to do it all at the start of the year,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t want to leave it for a while and say, ‘OK, I’ll put something in in dribs and drabs.’ I just wanted to get it all in, get it all settled and have it over and done with, so eight, nine months down the line, I don’t have to say, ‘OK, right, I need to try to get this in or that in.’”
He said Tuesday that there were “no tweaks at all” in his clubs.
“Just staying with the same setup,” he said.
At the start of the season, the two top TV golf analysts – CBS’s Nick Faldo and NBC’s Johnny Miller – said McIlroy was making a mistake switching clubs after the kind of 2012 season he had, in which he was the leading money winner on the PGA and European tours and an eight-shot winner at the PGA Championship.
“I tweeted right from when I heard the news, that this is dangerous,” Faldo said during Golf Channel’s State of the Game roundtable discussion in January. “I said, ‘This is a very dangerous thing because you don’t want to mess with your confidence, your trust in your equipment.’”
On the same show, Miller talked about what happened when he switched clubs during his career.
“I decided to switch, and I switched everything,” he said. “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.’ ”
World Golf Ranking 2
Career victories 6
Top-10 finishes in 2013 2
AT THE MASTERS
Best finish T15 (2011)
Scoring average 72.43
Low round 65*
* First round, 2011