Rory McIlroy leaving Titleist; joining Nike next?
The worst kept secret in golf is finally official, as world number one Rory McIlroy will not be renewing his sponsorship deal at the end of this season with Acushnet (Titleist and Footjoy), making him free to sign with any company he chooses. The rumours have been swirling around McIlroy for months for two reasons: First, his budding and odd relationship with Tiger Woods, and second, as noted by Doug Ferguson in his writeup this morning, Titleist has been known for letting their star players go, most notably with Woods and Phil Mickelson. So, what’s next for Rory?
The move seems obvious. Expect McIlroy to join Woods at Nike, and the numbers being thrown around are staggering. The popular rumour is that McIlroy already has a deal worked out with Nike at ten years, and $250 million. Let’s take a quick look at why this does and doesn’t make sense for both parties.
For Rory, the first pro is obvious. $250 million is a massive amount of cash, and there’s no way that anyone could blame him for turning it down, despite the struggles of almost every golfer on Nike’s roster at the moment. Secondly, McIlroy’s relationship with Woods obviously played a huge role in this, and being closer to Woods is probably something that McIlroy wants at this point. The downside to Rory making the switch is that you never know how someone will play with a new set of clubs. You may not think that means much, and for weekend recreation players, it probably doesn’t, but the slightest change of things for the pros is a big deal. If this deal is in fact complete or close, it would behoove both parties to announce it quickly to give McIlroy as much time as possible to get acclimated to any change that he’s going to have to make. There were rumours on Monday that during their exhibition in China, McIlroy asked Woods if he could swing a few of his clubs, which if true, is pretty much the indicator of where things are going. The two were also definitely caught on-air discussing Nike equipment as well.
More fuel added to Rory to Nike rumours? Miced for sound during Woods - McIlroy ex players talked Nike eq, balls/spin rates.—
Rick Young (@RickatSCOREGolf) October 29, 2012
Now with Nike, there really isn’t a negative here, outside of the slight chance that McIlroy falls off the map. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but if you’re going to put it on one player for a ten-year term, they’ve picked the right one. The deal would give Nike arguably the two best players in the world, and would definitely give them the two most marketable assets in golf. Woods and McIlroy dominate the conversation in the game to an obscene level, and Nike having both of them under their control is huge for the company. Like I said above, we can safely assume that if McIlroy signs with Nike, that Woods played a part in getting it done, and keeping Woods happy is just as important to Nike, at least in the short term, as signing McIlroy is. Lastly, looking at Nike’s talent roster, it’s obvious that they need some fresh faces. While some of the players they have are successful and playing quality golf, the likes of Carl Pettersson and Francesco Molinari aren’t the types of players that turn heads. Throw in the fact that several of their players that they had expected to lead the charge for the next few years have fallen on hard times, and you’re looking at a group that needed an influx of something positive. Who knows, these rumours may not have even started if Anthony Kim and Paul Casey had been able to play respectable golf in the last 18 months.
Keep in mind that this is purely speculation at this point. Luke Donald, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland, Kyle Stanley and a few others are all free agents as well, so McIlroy won’t be the last shoe to drop.