The Norman Transcript

National Sports

October 31, 2012

Phenom to contender, Rory facing biggest change yet

NORMAN — Rory McIlroy’s decision to pursue a lucrative equipment deal was in place long before he grabbed a Nike golf club from Tiger Woods during their exhibition match in China and took a few practice swings.

Changing equipment was inevitable. Boy Wonder is simply too big now.

The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is no longer a U.S. Open champion with a massive upside. He fulfilled a big chunk of that potential this year with four wins, including an eight-shot win at the PGA Championship and back-to-back wins in the FedEx Cup playoffs against two of the strongest fields of the year. He is a lock for PGA Tour player of the year and the Vardon Trophy, all the awards Woods used to win.

McIlroy is a marketing dream, which made him worth too much to stay with Titleist.

Acushnet, the parent company, has a history of promoting its brand through numbers instead of a name. That’s why it didn’t stand in the way when Woods switched to the Swoosh, why it didn’t put up a fight to keep Sergio Garcia a decade ago, and why it let Phil Mickelson out of his contract just four months after Lefty’s popularity soared with his first major win at the 2004 Masters. And why it announced Tuesday that its relationship with McIlroy will end this year.

Golfers go through change all the time — agents, caddies, coaches. Switching equipment can be a tricky transition, and there is a long list of players who have struggled with it over the years. What makes McIlroy’s next move so interesting is that no other player who was No. 1 in the world made such a wholesale change so early in his career.

“I call it dangerous,” six-time major champion Nick Faldo said Tuesday morning on Golf Channel. “I’ve changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, ‘We can copy your clubs, we can tweak the golf ball so it fits you.’ But there’s feel and sound as well, and there’s confidence. You can’t put a real value on that.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

    MILWAUKEE — Bucks owner Herb Kohl has reached a deal to sell the franchise to New York investment firm executives Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for about $550 million....

    April 17, 2014

  • Hopes high for Negro League stadium comeback

    PATERSON, N.J. — The light touch of a paint roller is enough to dislodge a chunk of plaster from the crumbling walls of Hinchliffe Stadium. Though silent for decades, the former home of several Negro League teams is getting another chance ...

    April 17, 2014

  • Ryu takes early lead in LPGA LOTTE

    KAPOLEI, Hawaii — So Yeon Ryu shot a 4-under 68 on Wednesday to take the lead halfway through a windy first round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship. Japan’s Ayako Uehara was one stroke back....

    April 17, 2014

  • Captain Tom teeing it up at RBC Heritage

    HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Tom Watson wants to take a closer look at American prospects for the Ryder Cup, so the U.S. captain is playing in the RBC Heritage this week....

    April 17, 2014

  • Rangers rally past Mariners

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Leonys Martin had a game-winning RBI single in the ninth inning as the Texas Rangers scored two unearned runs in a two-out rally against Fernando Rodney, beating the Seattle Mariners 3-2 on Wednesday night in a game that ...

    April 17, 2014

  • Joe Kelly hurt as Brewers top Cards

    MILWAUKEE — The St. Louis Cardinals’ 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday may prove more costly than one defeat in the NL Central standings....

    April 17, 2014

  • Cards pitching shuts down Brewers again

    MILWAUKEE — Shelby Miller struck out seven and allowed three hits over six innings, and Mark Ellis had two RBIs in his return from the disabled list to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-1 win Tuesday night over the Milwaukee Brewers. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Commissioner calls replay start ‘remarkable’

    NEW YORK — Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says the sport’s new replay system is working well despite a few problems during its first two weeks....

    April 16, 2014

  • Fielder finally goes deep as Rangers shut out Mariners

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Prince Fielder and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit back-to-back homers, Robbie Ross limited Seattle to five singles in seven-plus innings and the Texas Rangers beat the Mariners 5-0 Tuesday night....

    April 16, 2014

  • Warriors trying to move on without Bogut

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Go small or go home....

    April 16, 2014