Following months of speculation about when or where Nike’s biggest-name staffers might switch equipment after the company's decision to exit the golf-club business, it appears Rory McIlroy is ready to replace some of his Nike clubs. Golf Digest's Tim Rosaforte reports that the 26-year-old was warming up for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China on Tuesday with a TaylorMade driver and fairway woods in the bag.
Many of Nike’s other tour staffers, such as Nick Watney and Tony Finau, swapped out their Nike equipment in earlier events this 2016-’17 season. The biggest domino to fall would be Tiger, with rumors being thrown around that the 14-time major champion has a “closet full of equipment” sent to him from other manufacturers. Tiger's deal with Nike runs through 2018, but like Rory, Nike's exit from the equipment business makes the duo free-agents for their gear.
The golf industry speculated McIlroy might have received a similar flood of golf clubs shipped to him by companies. The four-time major champion won his last two majors with Nike gear and played last month's Ryder Cup with his old Nike clubs, explaining the curiosity of him trying new TaylorMade gear.
The M2 driver that Rory was spotted practicing with is similar to the Nike Vapor Fly Pro, which Rory had previously been using, in that it offers a simpler, relatively limited amount of adjustability. Both M2 and Vapor Fly Pro feature an adjustable hosel only, no adjustable weighting. There’s also a similarity in that both drivers feature a channel in the front part of the sole designed to enhance the way the face flexes at impact. The Vapor Speed fairway wood and M2 fairway wood also have a similar channel.
Here's a photo shared from the range Tuesday in Shanghai.
It's not entirely clear whether McIlroy will play the clubs when the tournament starts or what a switch might mean regarding a possible equipment deal between McIlroy and TaylorMade, though you could speculate the switch at the end of 2016 might indicate both.
@NoLayingUp had first reported McIlroy’s potential switch, which included rather huge launch-monitor numbers.
These numbers are in comparison with swing data McIlroy shared with us for our 2016 Masters preview issue, which were listed at:
Carry Distance: 310.9 yards. Club Speed at Impact: 122.3 m.p.h. Initial Ball Speed: 181.9 m.p.h.
--additional reporting by Mike Stachura