RORY AND TIGER FLAME OUT
Godich: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the world No. 1 and 2, kicked off their much-anticipated 2013 seasons by missing the cut in Abu Dhabi. Neither guy did much to impress. I've never seen two players finishing so many swings with one hand on the club, if not flat out dropping the club in disgust. I know it's early, but based on what you witnessed, which player should we be more concerned about? And why?
Herre: They'll both be fine, but Rory needs to dial in his new sticks and Tiger needs to read the rulebook.
Shipnuck: I'm not concerned about either. Rory hadn't played in eight weeks, and Tiger was coming off one of the longest vacations of his career. They'll be fine.
Van Sickle: The results say they went there for the appearance money, and they don't have their games ready yet. In Rory's case, he's got to adjust to his new gear. And I'll say it again: Nobody changes everything in the bag, including the putter and the ball, without serious growing pains. Notice that his new putter lasted all of one round. These guys are pointing toward Augusta, not Abu Dhabi. I'm not concerned about either one, but I think Rory has more work to do than Tiger.
Hanger: I'm not seriously worried about either one. Tiger was far from great, but he would have made the cut if he hadn't made that rules blunder. Rory was more off his game, but some adjustment period to the new clubs (and ball, and shoes, and clothes, and bank account) is to be expected. He'll get it figured out.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I was shocked that Rory switched putters after one round. All eyes will be on his bag at the Match Play.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: They're still the two best players in the world, but I'm more worried about Rory because his Nike deal has created some new pressure from new places. Every bad round -- heck, every bad SHOT -- is going to be scrutinized like never before until he wins with the new clubs and silences those skeptics.
Walker: I'd be more concerned about Tiger than McIlroy, who has the club-change excuse. It's only Abu Dhabi, but it's another tournament where Tiger didn't contend. The Memorial must feel like a long time ago for him.
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I'd be more concerned about Tiger. He used to be able to win with his B game and contend with his C game. Now he needs his A game to even be part of the conversation.
Dusek: We shouldn't worry about either Rory or Tiger, but Rory's knee-jerk reaction to the greens in Abu Dhabi was to switch back to his old putter, which shows that, deep down, he's not completely committed to his new gear yet. Tiger missed the cut after making a mental error. He'll contend this week at Torrey Pines. I just wish Rory would add another event before the Match Play.
Wei: I'm not too concerned about either guy. Both are dusting off some rust after the holidays. It made me feel a lot better watching some of the shots they both hit! Like when Tiger took a divot with his driver in the first round.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Whose poor play concerns you more: Rory or Tiger?
MCILROY'S BIG DEAL
Godich: I found it interesting that Rory, when asked about his new endorsement deal, said he didn't play golf for the money. Nobody says no to a reported $250 million, but if it's not about the money, why would Rory change equipment after a monster year? And will this become a distraction if he continues to struggle?
Ritter: It's already a distraction.
Herre: It will definitely be a distraction if he keeps shooting 75s, but I don't expect that. Could take awhile, though, to settle in with the new stuff.
Van Sickle: You're right, nobody says no to $250 million. Pros are confident that if they've got their shaft, they can play with any head stuck on the end. For them, it's all about the shaft. And the ball. I'm hearing that a couple of players who have gone to wearing low-profile spikes have actually adjusted the loft-and-lie on their irons. They're that precise. So changing anything makes a difference. And anything that affects confidence, whether real or imagined, is a factor. Perception is reality.
Hanger: My BS detector always goes off when someone says "it's not about the money." Of course it's about the money. Granted, at this point, Rory is much more interested in major titles than another $1 million for the pile, but if money didn't matter to him, he wouldn't have been in Abu Dhabi in the first place, and he more than likely would not have moved to Nike.
Garrity: Also, money is sort of relevant when your latest impulse purchase is a $10 million oceanfront mansion.
Morfit: Of course it's about the money, as it almost always is.
Dusek: Rory may not play golf for money, but that doesn't mean he isn't interested in earning money. I see his equipment becoming a story only if he fails to win a few matches in Tucson and then doesn't contend at Doral. By March, the kinks need to be worked out, and he has to be dialed in to make a run at Augusta.
Walker: I don't think McIlroy cares that much about the money other than as a way to keep score. And there's no reason to think he won't adjust to the new gear in time. He's not Tiger; he's going to miss cuts and have slumps. We had better get used to it.
Herre: That's a good point, Mike. Rory isn't Tiger. Tiger's consistent excellence was unprecedented.
Reiterman: Right. Let's not forget Rory had a few rough months last year, and he was still the runaway player of the year.
Garrity: There have certainly been instances where a guy didn't play as well after the equipment switch. Lee Janzen got paired with Jack Nicklaus after dumping Nicklaus's equipment; Jack didn't say a word for most of the round, making him pay for his perceived disloyalty. But Tiger and Phil made big equipment changes without mishap. They kept tweaking clubs and ball until they got the feel they wanted.
Shipnuck: Rory was going to make a huge pile of money no matter who he signed with, and he'll make another huge pile in on-course earnings. So it's not really about the money. He grew up venerating Nike athletes and loved the image of the company. He wanted to be part of that. And he knew Nike's marketing muscle would help him transcend golf. He made the decision with his heart, not his wallet.
Hanger: Well, the "marketing muscle to help him transcend golf" means that he's interested in becoming a major global brand, and that's certainly all about the money, right?
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will Rory's Nike deal become a distraction as the season rolls along?