ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Rory McIlroy has some work to do if he’s to justify the huge amount of money Nike has paid him recently. After missing his first-ever cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, McIlroy headed out of the oil-rich emirate intent on getting used to his new Nike equipment.
With consecutive 75s, the World No. 1 bowed out of a tournament in which he had never finished worse than 11th. Unveiled to the world on Monday as Nike’s latest acquisition, McIlroy limped away from Abu Dhabi five days later with more questions than answers.
The Northern Irishman couldn’t make a putt in the first round and changed putters overnight, switching back to his old Scotty Cameron. Even that didn’t do the trick.
“I just wanted to try it because I felt like I didn’t get anything to the hole yesterday,” McIlroy said. “I just felt like it was a little light for these greens. The greens aren’t particularly quick here, so I just feel like the one I put in (the bag) today was a little bit heavier and felt like I could get the ball to the hole.”
McIlroy didn’t struggle only with the putter. He didn’t perform with his driver, either. He hit only seven fairways in the second round, and only 12 in two days, ranking 87th out of a field of 126.
“I just need to find a driver that I’m comfortable with, because I didn’t drive the ball at all well. I feel like that’s a big advantage for me.”
As for the rest of his game, it wasn’t anywhere near World No. 1 standard.
“All aspects of my game were off,” he said. “My iron play wasn’t anywhere near the standard that it usually is for me.”
However, McIlroy refused to blame his new clubs.
“I’m just struggling with my swing a bit,” he said. “I feel like I’m spinning out of it a lot, hitting out of the heel quite a lot. I just need to put in a bit of work on the range.
“It’s the first week out. I wouldn’t look too much into it. If anything, it’s more the Indian, not the arrow at this point.”
McIlroy left Abu Dhabi for Dubai to put in some much-needed practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. McIlroy’s next event is the WGC–Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, the first of a stretch of PGA Tour for him heading into the Masters. He’ll spend that time trying to get his game in shape.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “I’ve got a few weeks off now to work at it and try to get my game in decent shape for the U.S.”
McIlroy struggled early last year, too, but rebounded to win five times, including the PGA Championship and the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.
Just as one swallow does not a summer make, two bad rounds don’t make McIlroy a bad golfer. He’ll be back, probably with a vengeance.