The winds of change are swirling around professional golf as the game’s emerging superstar, Rory McIlroy, switches equipment.
Titlelist, under whose banner McIlroy has won two majors overall and four PGA Tour events in 2012, is dropping the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland at year’s end. The next step for McIlroy appears to be Nike, whose payroll added names such as Tiger Woods after a tenure with Titlelist in the late 1990s.
The last player of McIlroy’s stature to leave Titleist was Phil Mickelson, who joined Callaway in 2004.
“The reason Titleist can do this is because it has successfully marketed that more pros play its ball than any other,” writes ESPN’s Darren Rovell. “The second part of that equation, which is often forgotten, is the consumer really believes that (Titlelist is) the best.”
That said, there is some concern whether McIlroy can maintain his world’s top ranking after switching equipment.
Six-time major champion Nick Faldo has doubts.
“I’d call it dangerous,” the Englishman told Britain’s Daily Mail. “Every manufacturer will tell you we can copy your clubs and tweak the golf ball so it fits you. But there is a feel and sound as well, and there’s confidence … It messes you up because it just doesn’t feel quite the same.”
No matter the possible dangers, McIlroy is expected to hit the Mother Lode.
The Associated Press – citing “one industry observer” – believes a Nike deal could pay up to $20 million annually while Daily Mail pegs it at 10 years totaling about $250 million (£156 million).
McIlroy’s signing would also help the Swoosh blunt bad publicity attached to Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who lost his Nike contract amid his doping scandal.
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