Rory’s struggle is the equipment, not the clubs

Never has Rory McIlroy looked so comfortable as when playing Titleist golf clubs in a Jumeirah branded outfit. His US Open and US PGA victories were bordering on effortless. He won both by eight shots. His rise at the time to World no.1 was as inevitable as it was deserved.

As soon as he appeared in Abu Dhabi with that red headed driver and a Nike logo on his clothing, something just looked wrong. Rory was uncomfortable, a stranger in his own golf skin. Yes his swing was not quite where it should have been, but that was not the complete picture.

Much has been said his switchover to Nike clubs. I firmly believe it’s not the clubs that are to blame, it’s the brand. These days when a player switches clubs, new irons can be made all but identical to the old. What can’t be preserved is the ethos of a former sponsor and the brand it represents to the player, and the sporting world.

Titleist has a unique appeal. It is a brand perceived as elite, but also accessible to the everyday golfer. This is Rory’s forte – a player at the top of the game whose professionalism is also made available to others. His media interviews, approach to the game and general conduct are gracious and respectful, yet highly ambitious. Jack Nicklaus had the same formula.

Adidas has a slightly different brand; a hint of dogged determination which suits great players such as Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and of course, Andy Murray. Let us pray that the Wimbledon champion sticks to that winning formula.

Nike’s brand is different – a little more arrogant, imposing and forthright. It suits Tiger to a tee. Some might say that it should suit all world beaters; assist them in the pursuit of major domination. But Rory is not like that. It is not in his lexicon to be ‘all about the next ‘W’. That’s Tiger language, Nike language.

Perhaps what we are seeing this year is the effect of a brand identity incompatible with the champion it sponsors. Rory is a champion who wins tournaments graciously, not aggressively. Which brand does that fit? Titleist. I’d bet my house that even Jack Nicklaus would have struggled with that red 3 wood and a tick on his hat. It would have looked all wrong, felt all wrong. So it does for Rory.



  1. Ray du Plooy says:

    Interesting take…….thought it could have been the girlfriend……..