McIlroy may not stick with clubs he’ll use for season start

Rory McIlroy poses with players of The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation after they had taken part in the Friendship Cup with The Faldo Junior Series Team during the pro-am for the 2017 BMW South African Open Championship. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy poses with players of The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation after they had taken part in the Friendship Cup with The Faldo Junior Series Team during the pro-am for the 2017 BMW South African Open Championship. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images

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World No 2 Rory McIlroy begins the new year having not yet decided on what clubs he will play but insists the player rather than the equipment is more important.

The Northern Irishman is among a number of top stars who have been forced into a change following Nike’s withdrawal from the club manufacturing market.

McIlroy, pictured below, has been testing a number of options and will start this week’s BMW SA Open – he is playing in the event as a favour to the tournament host, Ernie Els – with Callaway woods and irons, Titleist wedges and balls and a Scotty Cameron putter.

He has been here before, however. In 2013 he struggled for form immediately after changing clubs as part of signing a multi-million pound deal with Nike. However, the four-time major winner said his set-up could change on a regular basis until he settles on a favourite combination.

“They are picked for this week but that could change week to week,” he told a press conference in the build up to the first European Tour event in 2017.

“This is my first event with those clubs so we will see how it goes this week. You never really know until you have a card in your hand and at the end of the day the person swinging the club is more important than the club itself.”

McIlroy is playing for the first time since finishing ninth at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and even on his arrival in South Africa he chose to spend four days on safari before heading to the tournament at Glendower Golf Club in Gauteng.

However, he brushed aside suggestions – considering his equipment issues – that he was under-prepared.

McIlroy will point to recent history - he has finished in the top five in his first outing of the new year in the last eight years apart from 2013 - as justification of his methods.

“I spent a week in Dubai before Christmas testing a lot of equipment and hitting a lot of balls and training,” he added.

“I had a week off from December 20 to 27 and then went back to Dubai and worked solid for 10 days till I came down here.

“I have been practising in the Middle East for the past week or so, although I have spent the last few days here on safari so hadn’t hit a ball for four days.

“I am in competitive mode but we also wanted to go into the bush for a few days which might have made me a little rusty but I can shake that off before Thursday.

“The first couple of holes [of his practice round] weren’t great but once I got into my rhythm it was okay. I am here to play well and get my confidence up. The course is playing long as they have had a lot of rain so I think there will be a premium on hitting fairways this week. Today was just about getting to know the course a little bit and working out lines of tees and getting comfortable.”

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