Rory McIlroy ditches Nike putter

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- On Monday when Rory McIlroy was officially introduced as Nike's newest endorser, the golfer was specifically asked if he was contractually allowed to sub out any of his old equipment for the new stuff, if necessary.

McIlroy declined to discuss the terms of his deal, but the question was answered Friday when his old Titleist Scotty Cameron was in the bag, replacing Nike's Method putter.

That isn't likely to sit well with Nike officials, who reportedly are paying him more than $100 million over five years to wear its apparel, shoes, gloves and of course play its clubs.

"We understand it takes time. It's a process and we are confident he'll change when he's ready," Nike said in a statement Friday.

Many players have deals that don't require every club, and even Tiger Woods took years to put all of the company's clubs in his bag.

For McIlroy, those details didn't much matter, as he missed the 36-hole cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in his first event using Nike equipment. He also suggested he might be looking for a different driver.

"I just felt like the greens that I've been practicing on in Florida are a lot faster than these," he said. "The putter, the Nike putter is great on that. But then getting to here ... it's a weight issue more than anything else. I can feel the head on this one I used today a little bit better. On fast greens, the other one works fine."

Woods had similar comments in 2010 when he first put the Nike Method in his bag -- replacing the Scotty Cameron with which he had won 13 of his 14 major championships. Woods went back and forth for awhile before settling on the Nike club later in the year.

McIlroy shot scores of 75-75 to miss the cut by three strokes, ending a dizzying week with some lackluster golf not befitting the game's No. 1-ranked player.

"I knew it was going to be a tough week with everything going on, but I was just looking forward to getting to the golf course and getting back to what I do and what I'm comfortable with," McIlroy said. "It just didn't work out like that. I hit the ball really well last week in practice in Dubai and just sort of gradually got worse this week for some reason.

"But I'm going to spend the weekend here and practice and work at it with Michael (Bannon) a little bit."

Bannon has known McIlroy since he was a child in Northern Ireland and has been his long-time coach. He has been here in Abu Dhabi with him as well as last week in Dubai.

"All aspects of my game were off," McIlroy said. "I didn't drive the ball well. My iron play wasn't anywhere near the standard that it usually is for me. I'm just struggling with my game a little bit. Feel like I'm spinning out of it a lot, hitting out of the heel quite a lot. Just need to put in a bit of work on the range."

With all the attention on McIlroy's mega-endorsement deal, there will undoubtedly be questions about the decision to switch equipment. There are numerous examples of players over the years regretting the switches they made, as they struggled to adapt.

But in fairness, McIlroy has had plenty of instances in which he struggled with the old equipment that he also used to win a major championship and money titles on the PGA and European tours in 2012.

At one point last year, McIlroy missed four cuts in five tournaments, including the U.S. Open. He was 60th at the Open Championship.

"It's the first week out," McIlroy said. "I wouldn't look too much into that. If anything, it's more the Indian and the arrow at this point. So a few hours on the range tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, and a bit of work with Michael and try and clear a few things up.

"I'm really happy with the ball and the wedges. The putter is good on fast greens that I've practiced on, and I probably 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 is driving the ball well."

McIlroy is not expected to play again until the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the end of February.