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SBD Global/January 22, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

McIlroy Causes 'A Stir' By Reverting Back To Titleist Putter After Signing New Nike Deal

Rory McIlroy holds his old putter during the second round of The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Friday.
Rory McIlroy caused “a stir on Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship when he reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for Round 2” less than one week into his career with Nike Golf, according to Rex Hoggard of the GOLF CHANNEL. McIlroy kept his Nike “head cover on the Cameron." McIlroy said, “I felt the greens were pretty slow out there. The Nike putter that I used (on Thursday) is a little light and it was just a weight issue more than anything else. I feel like the one I used today was a little heavier and I was able to get the ball to the hole.” McIlroy declined to talk about the specifics of his Nike contract and “whether he was allowed to revert to his old putter under the terms of the agreement.” He said, “It’s the first week out. I wouldn’t look too much into (the new equipment)” (GOLF CHANNEL, 1/18). McIlroy’s agent Conor Ridge said, "It's going to take time. He's got to work the clubs in gradually" (GOLF CHANNEL, 1/19). GOLF CHANNEL’s Hoggard noted Nike Golf “did not disclose the fine print of its new deal with McIlroy and it seems likely there are addendums penciled into the deal that would allow him” to use his old Titleist putter. But if that is the case, then “why not ease into the new bag from the outset?” (GOLF CHANNEL, 1/18). In Portland, Allan Brettman noted neither McIlroy nor fellow Nike endorser Tiger Woods made the cut at Abu Dhabi, not how Nike Golf President Cindy Davis “envisioned the week ending.” But Davis said, "It's early in the year. I think -- especially early in the year -- you're watching a lot of these guys getting the rust off, getting ready for the year” (OREGON LIVE, 1/18).

PLAYING PARTNERS: McIlroy and Woods' new Nike commercial was a topic during GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussion, and SI Senior Editor Mark Godich said, “I think it's great. Tiger comes off as likable. I also think that if this keeps up, Rory just might help Tiger rehabilitate his image.” SI’s Gary Van Sickle said, “The commercial is a winner, even after you learn that Rory and Tiger were never together for the filming.” Golf Magazine Senior Editor Mike Walker said, “The commercial explains why McIlroy went with Nike: they know how to create stars" (GOLF, 1/20).

A 'PR NIGHTMARE': In Dublin, Karl MacGinty wrote "the honeymoon appeared to be turning into a PR nightmare" for Nike following Monday's sponsorship announcement in Abu Dhabi. In fairness, "his old putter made precious little difference" as McIlroy completed his 36 holes at 6-over, four strokes off the cut. McIlroy: "It's the first week. I wouldn't read too much into the change. If anything, it's more the Indian than the arrow." Nike "dismissed any suggestion of dismay with his decision to discard their putter." A Nike spokesperson said, "We understand it takes time. It's a process and we're confident he'll change when he's ready" (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 1/19).
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