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What We Learned: Abu Dhabi

Tiger Woods
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Each week, offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This week, our writers weigh in on Rory McIlroy's equipment switch and the ever-widening lens of scrutiny he's opened himself up to.

Rory McIlroy is going to get a small taste of what it is like to be Tiger Woods. In other words, he is about to experience a lot more intense scrutiny over every shot he hits. That is the downside of ditching the equipment that got you to No. 1 and signing a multi-million dollar contract with a new company. Yeah, the missed cut at Abu Dhabi is just one event, and probably just a blip in McIlroy's ascendance, but there will be mounting pressure to prove the equipment switch was not dangerous, as Nick Faldo suggested. There will be mounting pressure to win his first event with his new Nike clubs. There will be more of a 'daily referendum,' as Tiger coach Sean Foley calls the scrutiny of Woods' game, on McIlroy's game now, too.

McIlroy jumped more directly into Tiger's world in that game of one-upsmanship he played with Tiger in the entertaining Nike commercial released this past week. He jumped in deeper playing that game of one-downsmanship with Woods in their pairing in Abu Dhabi. 'Whatever you can do, I can do worse' was the theme in Abu Dhabi. – Randall Mell

Appearance fees don’t guarantee a Sunday marquee. Matching 75s from Rory McIlroy and a rules snafu by Tiger Woods sent the world’s top two players home long before Jamie Donaldson rallied to win the title. Spending seven figures to woo golf’s top players sounds good in theory, but as officials in Abu Dhabi learned this week there are never any guarantees. – Rex Hoggard

A player can switch equipment manufacturers and still find immediate success. Rory McIlroy? Nope, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, of course, but his Nike stablemate Thorbjorn Olesen employed a bag that included 14 clubs from the company while finishing in a share of second place, just one stroke out of a playoff in just his second week using the gear. While there weren't too many positives for McIlroy to take from the week, seeing that the clubs do indeed work and can make a sudden impact should serve as optimism for him going forward. Too often, cynics are quick to criticize a change of equipment. Those burying Rory already for making the switch should similarly take note of Olesen's strong play this week, which should help disprove the notion that offseason moves lead to early-season blues. – Jason Sobel

Rory McIlroy never looked right bathed in those Abu Dhabi spotlights, strolling down a catwalk in his new Nike duds. He’s always seemed more understated than extroverted, but when you are given the keys to the kingdom you bend your own rules and play along. McIlroy took one for the team until Friday morning, when he ditched his Nike putter for his trusty Scotty Cameron (he kept the Nike head cover, wouldn’t you know?) and missed the cut anyway. I’m not worried about McIlroy long term (I’m not worried about Nike, either) but the entire week was an odd way to begin a season.

Oh, and one more thing. The golf gods sure don’t miss much. – Damon Hack