Rory McIlroy may be on a week off, but golf’s world No 1 remains in the news and at the centre of debate – both for the clubs he plays with and for his choice of tournaments.
A big-money move to Nike – the same equipment used by Tiger Woods – is expected after the announcement by Titleist’s parent company Acushnet that they will not be renewing their contract with the Northern Irishman at the end of the year.
“I call it dangerous,” six-times major winner Sir Nick Faldo said on American television. “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 – it’s priceless.
“I’d be very cautious. Stick with the clubs that you know best. It’s really important. It’s the feel and confidence of knowing that your equipment will perform how you want it to perform on Sunday afternoon.”
McIlroy and Woods, meanwhile, have disappointed the sponsors of this week’s HSBC Champions in China – the final world championship of the season – by not staying on in the country following an exhibition head-to-head on Monday that was reported to have earned both of them seven-figure sums.
“On one hand we are delighted to have 13 of the world’s top 20 here, but of course we’re disappointed not to have the two top players in the world,” said Giles Morgan, group head of sponsorship for HSBC. “Both have sent me apologies, but this is an event which should be regarded by all players – as it is by the tours and the media – as one of the top events in the world.
“I believe that golfers have a responsibility to their sponsors. Without the sponsors there isn’t professional golf. I feel very strongly, as I know a number of sponsors do – particularly in a downturn, particularly when there are financial difficulties around the world – that golf cannot be immune either.”
After finishing runner-up at the BMW Masters in Shanghai on Sunday, McIlroy beat Woods over 18 holes at Jinsha Lake, then flew to Bulgaria to spend time with his tennis-player girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki. He will be back in Asia for next week’s Singapore Open – sponsored by Barclays – then defends the Hong Kong Open title before moving on to Dubai for the final European Tour event of the year.
Woods is not playing again until the end of November at the World Challenge in California.
As for the equipment, McIlroy said in a statement: “Since I turned professional in 2007, I have enjoyed five very exciting and successful years with the company [Acushnet] and I will always appreciate the contribution Titleist has made in helping me become the player I am.”