Rory McIlroy signs with Nike Golf

Abu Dhabi, UAE January 14 – In a ceremony befitting a heavy metal band more than a professional golfer Rory McIlroy was unveiled as the newest Nike Golf Athlete. The much-anticipated and widely-rumored announcement was made by Nike Golf President, Cindy Davis to a collection of media. Davis stated that McIlroy had signed a “multi-year deal,” but gave no specifics beyond that. The location was determined by this week’s European Tour event, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Rory’s (and Tiger’s) first event of 2013. Nike also tweeted this welcome to McIlroy:

NikeRory

And thus endeth the understated portion of the evening.

As I mentioned, the ceremony looked like a rock concert, complete with lasers, pyrotechnics and giant screens proclaiming the accomplishments of Rory. Or maybe it was part professional wrestling, as Rory emerged from the shadows. Judge for yourself HERE (apologies for video and audio quality, couldn’t afford the trip to Abu Dhabi to cover in person). At any rate, with all of these lasers and lights and holograms, it was a but underwhelming to see the normally low-key McIlroy stroll out in jeans and sneakers (obviously with swooshes). I thought he’d pull a Skeletor from Masters of the Universe:

Imagine if Rory had come out in some big get-up and shot energy beams from his eyes at an imprisoned Tiger Woods (played by Dolph Lundgren in the video) and ordered him to “KNEEL BEFORE YOUR MASTER!” Would have been a bit of fun, right?

But we know that’s not Rory’s style…so back to business…

Rory sat with Cindy Davis and gave the expected “I love Nike…it means excellence…Tiger this…Federer that…I can’t wait to make my own history with Nike.” Because it’s not like he’s going to say “Well, I REALLY played well with my old Titleist gear, but Nike gave me $200 million reasons to switch, so I figured, what the hell?” Since nothing was quite that interesting at this presser, here are a few of the moments I enjoyed:

  1. A reporter asked Cindy Davis if there was a behavioral clause in Rory’s contract given the extra-marital affairs of Tiger Woods and soon-to-be-admitted performance enhancing drug use of Lance Armstrong. Davis glared at the reporter before explaining that Nike has a policy to not discuss terms of contracts
  2. After McIlroy went through his bag discussing the clubs we would use another reporter asked if Rory would switch back to his old Scotty Cameron putter if his new Nike Method 006 did not perform well enough. McIlroy side-stepped by talking about how much he loved his Nike putter and the technology. The reporter followed up by firmly asking if Rory had the OPTION to switch, implying that McIlroy’s contract might stipulate a certain number of Nike clubs to be played. Rory politely stated that he would not discuss particulars of his deal.

The event continued with McIlroy briefly explaining each of the 14 Nike clubs in his bag. For a complete list and analysis check out two of the best equipment writers, David Dusek of Golf Magazine and E. Michael Johnson of Golf World. It is interesting to note that McIlroy will make a complete change, at least initially, to Nike equipment. Bear in mind that is not only clubs, but ball, footwear, apparel, glove and headwear. Everything will feel different, but make no mistake that McIlroy has tested each new piece of equipment and clothing he’ll use in this new contract and I expect it will not take long for him to adjust.

Nike also complied a welcome video from top Nike Athletes Wayne Rooney, Roger Federer and, of course, Tiger Woods as well as Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight, who mentioned that he was looking forward to meeting McIlroy at The Masters. Yes, the chairman of the company paying Rory a reported $200 million has not met him yet.

Finally, Nike showed off the first commercial featuring McIlroy in the swoosh. The ad co-stars, you guessed it, Tiger Woods. Imagine it’s 1990 and Michael Jordan and Larry Bird are trading baskets in an epic game of H-O-R-S-E. Now take that idea, put it on a driving range and use Tiger and Rory.

It’s fun, I especially like Rory saying he’s “trying to keep up with the old guy” while Tiger’s comeback, “Dude, is that your REAL hair?” HA! Well done, Nike. Hope we see more of those soon. The ad is set to begin airing Wednesday.

I expect that we’ll see plenty of Tiger and Rory together, again, for the first time as fellow Nike Athletes this week in Abu Dhabi as well. For TV ratings there is nothing better than the two of them paired together in the first two rounds, as Nike says, “Just Do It.”

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