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Down in Dubai

World #1 and present day wunderkind, Rory McIlroy played his first tournament of the year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy shot a pair of 75’s and will not be playing on the weekend, making this one of those rare occasions that he will miss the cut. He was paired with former World #1, Tiger Woods, who would also miss the cut. The odds of both of these great players missing the cut are astronomical but such is golf.

One can credit this down to many factors. Both have had a long layoff from competitive golf and the accompanying rust was evident in their games. They were paired together and therefore perhaps trying too hard. Or in Woods’s case, maybe he still isn’t comfortable with the swing changes that he has been now making for two years.

Those excuses aside, McIlroy just signed a 10 year deal with Nike to represent them. That means wearing all their clothes and playing their equipment. It is a deal reportedly worth between 200-250 million dollars. Up until now, that kind of endorsement money was the domain of only one golfer, the aforementioned Woods.

The Nike TV ad that features both superstars is one of the best commercials made in a very long time. This week, however, neither player lived up any of the hype that the commercial promises.

Rory played with his new Nike irons in competition for the first time. It was not the resounding success that all had hoped for. For players of this caliber changing the clubs you play can often times be a career threatening decision. A great player has the same bond with their clubs that a concert violist would have with their violin.

Rory has used the Titleist clubs that he has been playing with (in one very similar form or another) for 10 years. It will take even this most supremely talented of golfers time to get used to the new equipment. It may all become a moot issue over the coming months as he acclimates to them and begins to play like the McIlroy that we have come to expect.

200+ million dollars is a very hard amount of money to turn down.  Let’s hope that in 10 years, he doesn’t look back on this decision and ask himself the question…”what if?”