August 24, 2016
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy discussed his future equipment with the announcement that Nike would no longer make golf clubs. (Kevin Cox/Getty Images)
Three years and seven months after he was introduced on a stage in Abu Dhabi as the newest member of Nike Golf's Tour in a made-for-TV unveiling, Rory McIlroy arrived at The Barclays far less certain about his future — at least as it pertains to the equipment he'll be using during the FedExCup Playoffs and beyond.
Nearly three weeks ago at the Travelers Championship, Nike announced it would be no longer create golf clubs, balls and bags going forward, and would instead concentrate on only footwear and apparel going. The news sent shockwaves through the golf industry.
Nike athletes in the field that week at TPC River Highlands revealed they learned about Nike's decision through their agents just minutes before a press release was issued.
Rory McIlroy, who wasn't in the Travelers field, found himself in the the same boat.
"It was a shock to all of us," McIlroy said. "I got a call two hours before it was announced."
With the FedExCup Playoffs on tap, Nike's decision to cease production of hardgoods came at a precarious time for staffers, including McIlroy, who is now free to make adjustments to his bag setup whenever he wants.
Of course, that doesn't mean McIlroy has plans to make wholesale changes — at least not yet. McIlroy had 13 Nike clubs in the bag during a Monday practice session at Bethpage Black and noted during his press conference that he's happy with most of the equipment in his bag, even confirming that he has a three-year supply of Nike RZN Tour Platinum golf balls at his disposal.
Rory McIlroy talks equipment before The Barclays
"I don't think it's the time or the place to change what I feel like I'm very comfortable with," McIlroy said. "Obviously working with the Nike guys over the last number of years, they have gotten to know me and my specific tendencies and what I like in golf clubs. No reason to start changing just because I can. I'm comfortable with everything."
The only change McIlroy will make to the bag this week was a necessary one (his words) that came about following a lengthy struggle with the putter that culminated with a missed cut at the PGA Championship.
"Leaving Baltusrol, obviously I was very disappointed, and I needed to think about a few things," McIlroy said. "I needed to assess where my game was and address a few issues. Obviously I think I was No. 1 in strokes gained: off-the-tee at Baltusrol, but I was near dead last in putting, so obviously that was something I needed to address."
McIlroy, who ranks 96th this season in strokes gained: putting this season, believes he's addressed the issue. Working with the SAM PuttLab during his down time, McIlroy noticed his putt face and path were going left, leading to a "two-way miss" that had him pushing and pulling putts with regularity.
"It was more to do with what my hands were doing, sort of going up and left," McIlroy said. "And obviously with working with Dave [Stockton] over the last few years, it's very much left-hand leading, but the left hand was leading but it was going this way and left and up."
Improving his path was one part of the equation. The other was going from a Nike Method Origin blade to a Scotty Cameron prototype mallet — a head model he hasn't used since 2011 — that helped reduce head twisting and keep the face square at impact.
"I feel like with the putter change to a mallet, it doesn't encourage that face to close that much, which is the bad putt I was getting," McIlroy said. "So just sort of encourages the face to stay a little more square through impact."
With McIlroy starting a run of nine events in the next 12 weeks, the putter is likely the only change that will be made before the offseason. He confirmed he'll likely stick with a setup he's comfortable with for the grueling stretch, leaving the tinkering and testing for the offseason.
As far as his status of signing with another equipment manufacturer, rumors have been rampant over the last few weeks, linking McIlroy with a number of different companies. Some even started sending equipment to McIlroy's parents' residence, despite the fact that he hasn't reached out to anyone formally.
"I haven't been home, but apparently my parents' house has been inundated with golf equipment from different manufacturers," McIlroy said. "I haven't asked for it, but it's there."
For now he's concentrated on golf. But when things start to quiet down, he'll begin the process of figuring out his equipment future. He'll still wear Nike apparel for the foreseeable future. The equipment is where things get a bit cloudy.
Instead of signing another full bag deal, similar to what he did with Nike, McIlroy is considering the idea of going it alone for a year or two and putting together a set of clubs that suits his game and playing preferences.
"I might start tinkering a little bit in the offseason and see what else is out there," McIlroy said. "I don't really expect to sign with anyone next year. I'd rather just have a year of going and playing what I want and being comfortable, and if I come across something that I really like and I'm really comfortable with, obviously I'll look to sign a longer-term deal."
If he does go it alone, he'll follow in the footsteps of a select few — Ryan Moore did the same thing last season before signing with PXG at the Shell Houston Open — that have played on TOUR without a major equipment sponsor.