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November 26 2013

3:30 PM

Q&A with Rory McIlroy

Jonathan Wall/PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy loves the forgiveness of the Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driver.

By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider

LAS VEGAS -- Coming off the best season of his career, Rory McIlroy shocked the golf world when he decided to part ways with Titleist at the end of 2012 and join Tiger Woods at Nike Golf.

While his move to Nike was without question the biggest equipment story of the season, it reached a fever pitch when McIlroy struggled early in the year — he went winless and only posted one top-five finish on the PGA TOUR — leading many to assume the new clubs and ball were to blame for his struggles on the course.

"It had nothing to do with equipment or a club change," McIlroy said during a Q&A session with a select group of journalists at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. "For people that don't know, it's easy for someone to say, this is why you're struggling. The only people that know is yourself and the people closest to you."

With nearly a full season under his belt as a Nike athlete, McIlroy took time to discuss a number of equipment topics, including the state of the clubs in his bag, critics, Nike's new VRS Covert 2.0 driver and his equipment testing process.

Where are you at with the state of the Nike clubs in your bag?

"My (Nike) clubs were one of the most talked about things in golf this season, but overall, I feel great. It's been a year where I've learned a lot. The great thing is, is I've been a part of the whole process the entire way. That's what I really appreciate about Nike is the feedback they allow me to make on everything in my bag. I feel like my game is in a place where I want it to be, and I couldn't be happier with my current equipment.

What did you think of all the naysayers saying your new equipment was the reason you struggled at times last season?

For me, all I was thinking was if someone knows the golf swing and had looked at my swing at the start of the year and compared it to now, they'd see why I wasn't playing the way I wanted to.

It had nothing to do with equipment or a club change. For people that don't know, it's easy for someone to say, this is why you're struggling. The only people that know is yourself and the people closest to you.

Out of all the clubs in your bag, is there one that takes more time to test and switch into?

I'd say fairway woods because they're very individual. You see guys on TOUR playing fairway woods that are six or seven years old, and it's something that if you have one you like, you usually stick with it for longer than most other clubs in the bag. For me, fairway woods need to be versatile off the tee so you can maximize your distance, or if you're going into par 5's, one that can also come in soft. I feel like this Covert 3-wood does both of those things for me. It took some time, but I'm very confident with the fairway woods I have in the bag at the moment.

Why did you go back and forth between the Nike Method putter and your old Scotty Cameron this year?

The Method technology was just a little different than what I was used to because the ball just rolled so much quicker off the face. Sometimes I'd struggle with speed a little bit, so I had to tinker with head weights to get the feeling I wanted to. Once you get it dialed in, it's great. I think once I found the head weight, I really saw the benefits of a ball that rolled quicker off the club face. It rolls truer and you can be a little more feel-oriented.

You recently added Nike's new RZN ball to the bag. What's your testing process like when it comes to a new ball?

For me, I look for certain things when I'm testing a new ball. I'm used to seeing the ball go out in a certain window, and I want to see that right away. I don't want the ball launching too low or too high. Then I usually check to see how it spins. Does it climb, flatten out or dip. The ball flight is obviously very important.

Of course, I also look at numbers on TrackMan to see how it performs with my current clubs in the bag. Is the speed up or down and do the numbers match what I'm seeing.

I think I hit more wedges and short irons into par 4s than most guys do, so I usually check out how the ball performs with those clubs first to see if (the ball) is going to work for me. You've gotta find a balance. We always talk about spin slope, where you want less spin with the driver and more spin with the wedges. It's about finding that perfect spin slope as well.

Was there a particular shot you hit with the new ball that made you believe it was the right fit for your game?

The 20XI was a great ball, but I think this new SpeedLock technology just makes the ball more efficient. For example, you've got 250 yards to the pin and 230 yards to clear the bunker. For me, I'd normally have to bust a 4-iron to get it over the bunker. With the new ball, I know that if I put a good swing on it, it's going to get there. I've gained about half a club with this new ball. I think that just proves it's a more efficient ball

Aside from the new pear-shaped head, what else did you really like about the VRS Covert 2.0 driver?

The larger face has given me more forgiveness on misses. When you're swinging a driver at 120 mph, you're not going to hit it out of the center every time — or at least I'm not. Even if you look there are tee marks on my driver face that are more towards the toe and heel.

With this new face, I know that if I hit one off center it's not going to get away from me. My ball flight has also tightened up a bit, which makes you more confident so you can go after it a little more. That's been big for me, just having that confidence to go after it a little more and know that even if I don't put a good swing on it, it's still going to go in that general direction.

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