“It would be nice at some point to have a very settled bag where I know what I’m using week‑in, week‑out,” remarked Rory McIlroy in his Tuesday press conference in the build-up to the Masters.
The backdrop for his quote above was a last-minute switch to his club artillery, as he headed to Augusta sporting new TaylorMade M2 three and five woods. These complement his recently-adopted Callaway irons and driver, and underlines his remarkable willing to make regular equipment alterations since Nike’s recent announcement that they were ceasing the manufacture of golf clubs and balls.
We’ve since seen various brands occupying different corners of the McIlroy bag. There was much fervor when he sampled the TaylorMade M2 driver towards the end of 2016, pulverizing the ball almost out of orbit, before he shuffled across to the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic Sub Zero, which he has now taken to the Masters with him.
Interestingly, the story of his choice of fairways is even more ‘shifty’. Rory flipped to TaylorMade woods back at the DP World Tour Championship in November, but then changed his setup again for 2017, swapping those for Callaway Great Big Bertha Epics. Yet he has now gone back to the trusty TaylorMade fairways once again.
Bear in mind too that he has also dabbled with Titleist equipment elsewhere in the bag since the Nike announcement last August, while on the putting side of things his Scotty Cameron has now been replaced with an Odyssey Microhinge (as per the O Works 2017 series). Elsewhere he has put his faith in the Callaway Apex MB Prototype irons for Augusta, while he will be armed with Titleist Vokey SM6 wedges and the new Titleist Pro V1x ball to complete the blend.
“It’s a nice position to be in,” the 27-year old said of his lack of equipment contract. “You have the freedom to try what’s out there. I feel like what I have in my bag this week will be adequate enough to do the job if I can make good swings with them.”
His final line is true of just about any club type or brand, and arguably he’s almost downplaying the importance of his choice of weapons there. Yet there is no denying that it all leaves McIlroy at a rather interesting juncture in terms of equipment. After all, he has been out of contract in terms of club brand for months now – an opportunity cost worth many millions, you would think.
True, he has now extended his shoe and clothing partnership with Nike (a 10-year agreement understood to be worth $200 million) which will have eased any sense of ‘financial loss’. But even still, it demonstrates how the Northern Irishman is unwilling to leave any stone unturned before deciding to settle on a combination within his bag that he is comfortable with. If anything, it underscores just how significant a premium he places on finding the right brand(s).
Is Augusta The Right Time To Change Equipment?
But his timing does beg some questions too. Surely at a course such as Augusta, where margins for error are notoriously fine, making last-minute switches represents an unnecessary risk? He of course could make an absolute mockery of such a statement this weekend.
But, given that he already carries a sizeable monkey on his back with a failure to triumph on the hallowed turf since his final-round meltdown in 2011, is it really beneficial to be bringing in such uncertainties and variables so late in the game?
Then again, he also raises another interesting point: “It’s just that they fit this golf course a little bit better than the other ones did,” McIlroy said of his fairway woods.
Indeed, those locked into long-term equipment contracts are effectively tying themselves into a one-size-fits-all approach to each golf tournament. Yet every golf course is different; conditions vary in different parts of the world, and each tournament encompasses its own set of external pressures. Perhaps this flexibility and willingness to make changes is actually an enabler?
So, is McIlroy an early-adopting visionary then? Or is he inflicting unnecessarily self harm?
The proof will be in the pudding, and the next few days will hopefully give us a clearer picture. Either way, a fascinating weekend of golf is guaranteed. Strap yourself in for the ride folks!