As Rory McIlroy begins his 2014 season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this week, he will be looking to rebound from what was, for the most part, a very difficult and disappointing 2013 campaign.
Entering his second full season as a Nike Golf athlete, McIlroy's thriving partnership and collaboration with the company that introduced him as one of their own at an elaborate event a year ago has played an integral role in the design and development of the equipment he will be using in 2014.
McIlroy doesn’t subscribe to the old adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
One year ago, the native of Northern Ireland was on top of his game as the No. 1 golfer in the world, coming off a five-win season that was highlighted by his second major victory at the PGA Championship—all while playing Titleist clubs and a Titleist ball.
Enter Nike Golf with an offer he couldn't refuse, but it produced a season that offered very little of the results Nike, and McIlroy himself, had to be expecting.
Naturally, the equipment switchover was met with a lot of fanfare and eventually a great deal of skepticism from assorted scribes and industry experts, but nobody could really pinpoint whether McIlroy’s funk was personal, business or equipment related—or a combination of the three.
“It was a big decision for me,” McIlroy admitted of last year's gear change at a pre-tournament presser in Abu Dhabi this week, via TheGuardian.com’s Ewan Murray. “I think it was a big thing for Nike. It was a real big step in my career. But I guess I had so many things to try and think about or focus on—am I going to use this, am I going to use that, is this driver better than that one? There was a lot of instability. There was loads of stuff going on around me and that didn't let me focus 100 percent on what I needed to do, which was to try and play the best I could."
It appears he has found the right formula for success, however.
A late-season surge last fall, highlighted by a one-shot victory over Adam Scott at the Australian Open, salvaged an otherwise mostly forgettable 2013 and gave the 24-year-old McIlroy some much-needed momentum heading into 2014.