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Rory's Nike flop no cause for panic


By Alex Coogan-Reeves

Published: 11:24AM Tuesday January 22, 2013 Source: ONE Sport

When Nike and Rory McIlroy hijacked the Abu Dhabi Championship last week, I'm sure they never envisaged the spectacular downfall that would follow.

The sportswear giant's pulled out all the stops to launch their much-publicised sponsorship of the world number one, with a lavish ceremony including a Rory hologram and the premiere of his cheesy new commercial with his bromance partner Tiger Woods.

Even tournament organisers came to the party, pairing Woods and McIlroy together for the first two rounds for what could only be described as a golfing clinic showcasing the best Nike Golf had to offer.

Then they both missed the cut.

Missing cuts is a reality of life as a professional golfer and the hit-out in the desert is hardly a prestigious event, but the fact that McIlroy failed with his new Nike kit in the bag for the first time has many golf pundits concerned.

The Northern-Irishman was adamant at the launch that his switch from Titleist to Nike clubs was a golf decision, not one at all motivated by the $US250 million he's reportedly receiving. He did his best to talk up the new gear.

"The new driver that I will play with this week is awesome," he said at the launch.

"As soon as I hit it I knew it was going in the bag straight away. I'm hitting it further - I thought I was hitting it far before, but this is really taking it to a new level."

He may have been hitting it further, but by no means was it more accurate and that went for all the clubs in his bag, even hitting a rare 'duck hook' in his first round.

Making matters worse for Nike, the 23-year-old chose to abandon his new putter after his opening-75, switching back to his reliable Scotty Cameron. That didn't save him as he fired another 75 to miss the cut by four strokes.

Having difficulties when switching equipment is nothing new, Woods had people questioning his decision when he made the same change 10 years ago, but six major titles to take his career tally to 14 put that chat to bed.

So it is important that we don't panic after Rory's recent failure. People forget he missed three cuts in a row last year before coming back to win three times in four weeks, including the final major of the year. This shows he is susceptible to dips in form and there was obviously a fair bit of rust to shake off in his first event of the season.

His first real test will come at Augusta National in April. Every golfer aims to peak for the Masters and success there will silence his critics. However a failure at the sport's most prestigious event may have some Nike big-wigs questioning what they spent that $250 million for.

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