Rory McIlroy officially signs on with Nike
The worst kept secret in golf was finally made official today, as Rory McIlroy has signed on with Nike. It is a head to toe deal, meaning that McIlroy will switch from Titleist equipment, as well as his apparel sponsors, most notably Oakley and Jumeirah. The terms of the deal aren’t official, but rumours suggest it’s a ten year deal worth roughly $200-250 million. The announcement happened at a lavish ceremony in Abu Dhabi where McIlroy is set to begin his 2013 season on the European Tour’s next stop, the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
McIlroy, currently the world’s number one ranked player, becomes the biggest catch for Nike in a massive offseason makeover. Up and coming players Kyle Stanley, Nick Watney, Thorbjorn Olesen and Seung-Yul Noh joined the fold a few weeks ago, and the addition of McIlroy seriously strengthens a brand that already included Tiger Woods, as well as other top players like Carl Pettersson, Charl Schwartzel and Francesco Molinari.
So, what does it all mean? Outside of being financially secure for the rest of his life, not a whole lot should change for McIlroy. Now, when we first started talking about this a few months ago, there was a suggestion that McIlroy could struggle, at least initially, with the new gear. Other players have struggled in the past with equipment changes, and we’ve actually seen this recently with both Stanley and Olesen having less than stellar debuts this season with Nike gear. In McIlroy’s case, I don’t think it’ll be an issue. We’re talking about a generational talent, who at 22 years old, already has ten wins worldwide and two majors. He’ll be fine. Equipment changes happen in the industry all the time, and if you look at the two widely assumed best players of the last twenty years, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, they did just fine when they left Titleist as well.
Of course, if he does start to struggle, expect the media to be all over him for this switch. People seem to forget, but last year before McIlroy confirmed his place as the world’s best player, he struggled by his standards in the middle of the season. After finishing tied for second at the Wells Fargo in early May, he was cut in four of his next five events. Someone or something had to be to blame, and so there was focus placed on McIlroy’s new relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Throughout, McIlroy handled the situation with class, insisting that his bad run had nothing to do with Wozniacki, and it was just something that happens from time to time. Sure enough, McIlroy was just fine, as he reeled off four wins, five other top-10’s and a solid performance at the Ryder Cup after that stretch. As Bubba Watson says frequently, golf is hard, and I think sometimes people, especially those who are inside the game and get paid to talk about it, forget that.
Ultimately, it’s on McIlroy to prove that he’s worth the money that Nike is throwing at him. The good news is that we won’t have to wait long before we can see him with his new Nike gear, as the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship gets underway Wednesday night at 10:00 PM ET on Golf Channel.