October 26, 2016
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy's first change since the putter swap appears to be an overhaul of his driver and fairway woods. (Photos by Matt Cochran/PGA TOUR)
Rory McIlroy was the first Nike staffer to make a change to his bag setup following the Swoosh's announcement in August that it would no longer be producing clubs and balls going forward. McIlroy removed his Nike Method Origin B2-01 putter for a Scotty Cameron Concept M1 prototype and went on to win the Deutsche Bank Championship, TOUR Championship and season-long FedExCup title.
With Nike no longer in the club-making an ball-making business, players have essentially become equipment free agents, granting them the ability to create a setup with clubs from any manufacturer.
Without an equipment contract tying him to Nike, McIlroy hinted at The Barclays that he would likely begin the testing process during the offseason and wouldn't rule out adding something new to the bag.
"I might start tinkering a little bit in the offseason and see what else is out there," McIlroy said at the time.
The first change since the putter swap appears to be an overhaul of his driver and fairway woods, after McIlroy was spotted at the World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions event with a TaylorMade M2 driver and fairway woods.
McIlroy's woods departure will likely raise some eyebrows given that he led the TOUR in strokes gained: off-the-tee (plus 1.230) and was 9th in driving distance (306.8 yards) last season with a setup that consisted of Nike's Vapor Fly Pro driver (9.5 degrees) and Vapor Speed fairway woods (15 and 19 degrees).
However, the numbers he's currently picking up with the TaylorMade setup appear to be as good if not better than what he was seeing with his Nike equipment. Chris Solomon from No Laying Up posted a screenshot of McIlroy's TrackMan numbers that revealed he was carrying it 330 yards with the new M2 driver.
Aside from the brand change to his woods, there are a couple less noticeable differences that McIlroy made to his setup. For starters, the loft setting on McIlroy's driver is set to "Lower," which means the 9.5 degrees stamped on the head is playing at 7.5 degrees — a full degree lower in loft than what McIlroy had in his Nike driver.
McIlroy also appears to be playing a Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage prototype shaft in both the driver and fairway woods. Changing driver shafts has been no problem for McIlroy over the years; however, the move to a new fairway wood shaft is a major departure for McIlroy, who used a Fujikura Rombax Pro 95X shaft in his fairway woods going back to his time as a member of Titleist's Tour staff.
The rest of McIlroy's bag setup remains the same — Nike VR Pro Blade irons, Nike Engage wedges and Scotty Cameron Concept M1 Prototype putter — which should come as a surprise considering the success he's had with the set makeup.
Some Nike staffers wasted little time overhauling their entire setup during the brief offseason. Patrick Rodgers, Russell Henley and Nick Watney had 14 new clubs in play at the Safeway Open. It's unclear if McIlroy will eventually go the same route this season or retain some of his Nike clubs for the 2016-17 TOUR season.
McIlroy could sign on with another equipment manufacture down the road, but for the moment he's content playing a mixed setup.
"I don't really expect to sign with anyone next year," McIlroy said at The Barclays. "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."