For better or worse, McIlroy looks to be following Woods' lead

By Jason SobelOctober 30, 2012, 2:58 pm

Stop me if this story sounds familiar: The world’s top-ranked golfer – a 20something wunderkind with a luminously bright future – is going to bubble-wrap his two major championship trophies and take ‘em to Nike headquarters, chasing the almighty dollar while taking the massive risk that it won’t negatively impact his performance.

It should sound familiar. That sentence could have been written 13 years ago, when a 23-year-old Tiger Woods made the radical decision to leave Titleist, gradually switching his equipment to swoosh-branded products over the next few seasons.

Say what you will about the daily state of Woods’ game, but his results chart since then speaks for itself. He’s won a dozen major championships and become a worldwide icon while sporting that ubiquitous Nike logo – all of which should serve as ample evidence for another No. 1-ranked 23-year-old who may be about to declare very similar intentions to Woods all those years ago.

One thing is certain: If Rory McIlroy needs advice on his impending decision to switch equipment manufacturers after playing the best golf of his career, he won’t need to look very far.

With news on Tuesday that the Acushnet Co. will not extend its Titleist and FootJoy relationship with McIlroy past the end of this year, the door is now completely open for the two-time major champion to slide in next to Woods in Nike’s ever-dwindling stable.

Yes, that Nike – the one which produces what Phil Mickelson once famously referred to as “inferior equipment.” The one which has accounted for just eight worldwide victories this year – LPGA and Web.com tours included – and just four on the PGA Tour. The one which outfits Paul Casey and Anthony Kim, recent posterboys for the precipitous decline that a notable player can endure when things aren’t going according to plan.

It’s also the very same company which has ushered Woods into the era of 460 cc driver heads and soft-cover golf balls with unrelenting success, transforming that massive risk into mammoth reward.

While some may argue that Nike doesn’t own the technological advancements or the research and design strategies of other golf-specific manufacturers, there’s an inarguable fact that isn’t applicable for 99.9 percent of other golfers who make similar decisions.

The company understands how to treat superstars. From Michael Jordan to LeBron James, it comprehends how to cultivate their optimal performance and – more than anything – how to brand them as icons. That’s what a potential deal would be about, not selling more clubs or balls than the next company, but something much larger.

It's about branding a global superstar with the swoosh logo.

Expect the recent Duel at Jinsha Lake exhibition against Woods to only be the tip of the iceberg, with a glacier of two-man hit-and-giggle fests for guaranteed seven-figure paydays to evolve into regular sightings. Don’t be surprised if the two of them form this generation’s version of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird performing their “nothing but net” act through every commercial break on network television.

That said, it’s not as if Nike is going to hand its newest contractor one of those square Sasquatch drivers and a set of 10-year-old Slingshots and expect him to find the secret in the dirt at the driving range. As it has done for Woods, the company would build equipment for McIlroy – very likely to the same specs as his current tools – and necessitate a smooth transition throughout the process.

“You know, I did it in 2000, I switched from the Titleist ball to a Nike ball,” Woods said last week. “For me it was a huge switch … but at that time that was a big change, to go from that technology. Guys make switches over their careers. Some of the top players like Ernie [Els] – he's played some serious great golf over the years, but it's been with four or five different big companies.”

Woods may not be an exception to any rule, but there are plenty of cautionary tales from other players about switching equipment manufacturers in the prime of their careers.

That earlier comment about McIlroy not needing to look far for advice in his current situation? It not only applies toward seeking out Woods, but his good friend Graeme McDowell, as well.

Two years ago, McDowell played a full arsenal of Callaway products and enjoyed the most successful campaign of his career, capturing the U.S. Open and three other worldwide titles. At the end of that season, he left Callaway to sign with Srixon/Cleveland and hasn’t been found in a winner’s circle since.

While McDowell is steadfast in his claim that it’s the archer not the arrow, you’ve got to wonder whether behind closed doors he wouldn’t offer his buddy a few words of discretion. Securing a bloated payday will never provide counterbalance to failing to win trophies. Ask the richest free agents in other sports whether taking more money to play for a losing team was worth it and you’ll hear a resounding response toward the negative.

There is already some thought toward McIlroy’s scenario being analogous to that exact situation, in effect leaving the Super Bowl champion for an unknown variable.

“I call it dangerous,” six-time major winner Nick Faldo said Tuesday on “Morning Drive.” “I’ve changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, ‘We can copy your clubs; we can tweak the golf ball so it fits you.’ But there’s feel and sound as well, and there’s confidence. You can’t put a real value on that. It’s priceless.

“It’s really important. It’s the feel and confidence of knowing that your equipment will perform how you want it to perform on Sunday afternoon. You can’t mess with that at such a young age.”

Well, most players can’t. Tiger Woods did at the exact same point in his career as Rory McIlroy stands right now and it’s obviously served him well. Only time will tell whether McIlroy can replicate his success, performing like Woods to transform this massive risk into mammoth reward.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'


President at the Presidents Cup


Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump


Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73


Cart on the green


Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green


Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open


Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National


Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open


Trump golf properties

Vandalism

Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses

Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers


Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up


Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.