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Gut reactions to McIlroy's Nike signing

Rory McIlroy
Getty Images

Twenty-four hours after Rory McIlroy’s long-awaited announcement that he has signed with Nike, here are four gut reactions:

You can take the kid out of Holywood, but you can’t put Hollywood into the kid. 

Two giant screens. A smoke machine. More pomp and circumstance than an NBA Finals player introduction. The entire announcement was just so … un-Rory. This is a grounded kid who grew up in a working class family in Northern Ireland, but the announcement made him look like a flashy superstar. Check that. It tried. McIlroy looked uncomfortable throughout the proceedings, like someone who walked in on an elaborate surprise birthday party only to find out that none of his friends had been invited. Here’s hoping the announcement was the anomaly and he’ll remain the same grounded kid, rather than the other way around.

Look good, feel good, play good.

That’s an old saying which transcends golf. Forgetting the grammar faux pas for now, there’s something to it. It doesn’t matter how much a company is paying a guy, when he looks into the mirror in the morning and sees “JUMEIRAH HOTELS & RESORTS” staring back at him, it can’t inspire confidence. McIlroy will now own a much cleaner look – just a simple swoosh logo on the hat instead of multiple sponsor plugs – which may not translate into fewer strokes on the course, but in this mental game if it inspires just a slight bit more confidence each day, that’s an unseen advantage.

Rory and Tiger will have commercial appeal.

Nike didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with its “No Cup is Safe” ad – it looks like a direct descendant of the old Michael Jordan-Larry Bird “Nothin’ But Net” commercials – but it’s fun, entertaining and depicts the two players in the right light. Conspiracy theories be damned, they really do like each other and enjoy each other’s company – maybe the very definition of “friendly rivalry.” The ad does a good job of capturing this relationship and leaves open the potential for even more entertaining sequels in the future.

For the love of money?

Of all the comments from McIlroy during the announcement, this one stood out for me: “I don’t play golf for the money. I’m well past that.” There’s a fine line between convincing the public you play for the love of the game and failing to convince them that you don’t need to play. Look, every golf fan understands that if Rory never breaks 80 again, he’s got enough cash to last him many lifetimes. But as a fan, you should want him to play like he needs to put dinner on the table. Guys who are hungry – figuratively if not literally – tend to dig deeper. That doesn’t mean money needs to be a factor; Woods is a prime example of a player who remains motivated to win despite financial security. It’s a special person – in any profession – who works harder after receiving a hefty payday. Rory maintains that he’s that kind of person. Let’s hope so.