Did New Equipment Throw Rory Off?

By: Tenna Merchent on January 22nd, 2013

Did a bag full of new clubs cause Rory McIlroy to miss the cut in Abu Dhabi last week? New equipment is fun, and exciting, and we all want the shiny new toy. And new equipment can improve your game; it can also, in the short run, get you off tempo. Everything looks different, feels a little odd, you have to think for a second because it’s all new.

In a perfect world, new equipment should be used extensively prior to any competition. You need to know how far you hit every single club in your bag, without thinking about it. I’m sure Rory’s clubs were custom fitted just perfectly for him, and if you’re serious about the game, yours should be too. The weight and the length need to be appropriate for your body’s height and weight.

It’s like getting a new phone, you’re all excited because it’s lighter and thinner, but everything is a little bit different, and why can you get your voicemail! But eventually you figure it all out, and it is better and faster, and was worth the pain and learning curve. It’s the same with new golf equipment, you’re going to have a learning curve, just make sure you do it in your practice rounds.

Clay is quick to point out to me that after the 1st round Rory switched from his new Nike putter back to his old one. Reasonable enough choice, there was a lot on the line.

So did Rory’s new clubs throw him off last week in Abu Dhabi, possibly? Will he work through it and get used to his new club, most likely.


7 Responses

  1. Jeffery Passage says:

    Rory’s equipment change is certainly water cooler material. But no doubt he will be dialed in soon enough to contend at all of 2013’s major tournaments. While Rory may have to have a minimum number of Nike clubs in his bag, we “regular” golfers can pick and choose what our “Perfect 14” should be. I was introduced to this club selection process recently and it seems to make sense that you don’t need a matched set of clubs to play well. Each club in the bag must allow you to play your best regardless of brand, club head, shaft, or grip.

    And since I don’t play for handicap or in a sanctioned event, I am often seen carrying 20 clubs in my bag, including two putters (LH and RH) and 5 wedges. I like to experiment with my clubs in real golf context, not just on the range or in the short game area.

    • Mike Merchent says:

      Jeffery, thank you for your comments. I too think Rory will be back sooner rather than later. It’s a marathon not a sprint!
      I would agree you don’t need a matched set, all one brand. I would however suggest that you need a set that is matched! What you’re doing today is what the likes of Nelson, Snead and Hogan would do back in their day. They would mix-and-match all kinds of clubs until they found the perfect matching clubs to complete their set. This process was a very difficult, time consuming process of trial and error. The player, caddie and club maker would spend countless hours on the range hitting ball after ball, club after club until they found the perfect combination of distance, trajectory and feel. While the pro would be hitting balls, the club maker would be tinkering with shaft lengths, altering club head weights, by adding and subtraction lead tape. After all this trial and error, a matching set would materialize. With todays technology this process is much easier and more accurate.
      Even if you don’t play for handicap or in club tournaments doesn’t mean you don’t want to play good golf. I think a few minutes with a professional club maker would pay big dividend for you in 2013!

  2. Tony Rhode says:

    I don’t believe the equipment was the only thing to blame. Being a club fitter, I can tell you, that there are no 2 clubs the same. Pro players are so much more in tune with their equipment than amateurs are. Most amateurs can’t feel a 1 point swing difference. Most pro’s, on the other hand, can feel a 1 gram difference. Confidence is a big thing in golf. If you could take the human factor out of it, he may have done better. I think he was under a lot of pressure to perform. That, to me, is more than the equipment.

    • Mike Merchent says:

      Tony,thanks for your reply. You are correct in your assertion that it “is more than equipment” that caused Rory to miss the cut in Abu Dhabi. I would suggest it’s a combination of many factors. Coming off a long vacation in combination with changing one’s entire set of golf clubs is a perfect combination for a lack of confidence. Changing one club such as a driver is not that difficult. Changing one’s entire set is very complicated and time consuming. You being a club fitter know this. I’m sure Rory and his fitting team will continue to fine tune his clubs. Once Rory puts in the needed range time as well as a sufficient number of practice rounds, I’m sure he’ll obtain enough confidence with his new equipment to produce the scores were all hoping for.

  3. Jeffery Passage says:

    Mike, I met a club fitter at a trade show a year or so ago who said that the club heads that pros use (even if they say Nike, TaylorMade, or Callaway) are not the same club heads that Nike, TaylorMade, or Callaway would make available for the average Joe at the local golf shop. Any truth to that assertion?

    • Mike Merchent says:

      Yes! Mostly with their wedges. They use a softer metal which is much more expensive. They also use prototype clubs that are being developed for the public.

  4. It did, and Rory isn’t the only one. Many big names in the game started off as Titleist guys (Tiger, Phil, Rory, Adam Scott, David Duvall, etc…) and all with the exception of Adam Scott have signed major deals with major retail partners. Nike is a clean brand, so it is not to be paired with any other sponsor on anything but the bag. Rory cut with Jumiera, Oakley, and Titleist to be solo-Nike. That’s not an easy transition because Nike is no Mizuno or Titleist in the equipment world and it is frankly not as fun as Oakley…it’s like Rory had to wear business casual for the first time and you can tell what a difference it has made (the guy who runs Nike’s golf business is a fellow Wabash College guy – I give him grief about being a soul stealer). Taylor Made has had similar effects, but their stables are deep enough and their retail engine large enough that engulfing a new upstart is not as big of a deal. Phil’s move to Callaway was on par with Tiger’s move to Nike. Dollars aside, I would like to see what the players would play if they had full choice (full kit from grip to shaft to head).

    Contracts in the golfing world are fascinating. For more great reading, check out http://chapeaunoirgolf.com – this site talks about the clothing contracts and the “scripts” that each player will wear any given weekend. There is a TON of money tied up in those logos. Switching to be a Nike guy was more than just a new set of sticks for Rory…it was a new uniform and a board of directors. Serious money was paid for him to be a brand ambassador…let’s hope that he has room enough to breath and regain that youthful approach to the game that he used to enjoy.