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Rory McIlroy's Career

Rory McIlroy's Career

PGA Tour Confidential: Rory McIlroy's Nike deal, Dustin Johnson's outlook, more

Rory McIlroy
Fred Vuich / SI
At age 23, Rory McIlroy has two major titles and the No. 1 ranking.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

RORY'S BIG DEAL
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: While the PGA Tour season has started with leisurely rounds in Hawaii, the serious business starts this week in Abu Dhabi, including Nike's little announcement on Monday. With Rory McIlroy expected to join team swoosh, the world is eager to see how he plays with his new equipment. Do you expect any growing pains for Rory and his new gear?

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Not with the clubs as much as the golf ball. Rory's swing is pure, and Nike will make him customized irons, wedges and a driver to match his game, but it will take a few events to get totally used to a new ball. I also know that he LOVED his Titleist fairway woods, and pros tell me all the time that fairway woods are the hardest clubs to be fit for, so that may take a little time too.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Distance control is the key to scoring. Even a small variation in spin on the ball, loft on the iron and a little feel can spell a difference of 10 or 15 feet. Today's players figure they can play any clubs as long as they have their usual shaft, but it's almost never that simple. You think Graeme McDowell expected to play worse after he switched clubs after his Open win? Rory will likely have some growing pains with the new gear. Nobody is immune to that.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: That's a good point, but how often do these guys hit it the yardage they're given? I see a lot of 20- to 30-foot birdie putts. As we all know, it comes down to putting. Last I checked, Rory seemed pretty dialed in there.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: No growing pains. He's probably been practicing with the new clubs and ball for months.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I agree. Rory is not a technocrat. He could play with anything.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: It will be an adjustment, but I don't think it'll be significant. Nike will get him a setup that feels familiar, looks good to his eye and is dialed in to nth degree.

Dusek: The driver won't be a problem; you simply hit it as far as you can. Issues will arise when Rory has to hit specific numbers. If he needed 133 with a fade, he knew what club and swing would produce that shot. Under tournament conditions, he may not have that with the Nike gear yet, but he will.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: An adjustment period for new gear isn't unheard of (McDowell and Furyk spring to mind). And once the new Rory swoosh ads hit the air -- Monday afternoon? -- Rorymania is going to reach a new level. So besides his new sticks, he'll also have some new distractions. He'll eventually be fine, but I expect a little rough patch early this season.

Dusek: In a funny way, Nike can't win in 2013. If Rory fails to win a major (or wins fewer than two or three events), people will blame the equipment. If he wins two or three majors, people (like Graeme McDowell) will say that Rory could've won swinging a shovel.

Hanger: That's true to an extent, but if Rory wins a major or two with that Red Covert driver, they'll be popping the champagne in Beaverton.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Nike ends up with Tiger and Rory, so I think they can't lose. Whatever adjustments he has to make, he'll make them.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will Rory have any growing pains with his new Nike gear?

THE MCILROY BRAND
Reiterman: Another question on my mind: How will McIlroy be branded? If Phil Knight asked for your input, how would you suggest marketing Rors to a global audience?

Godich: I'm eager to see how they package Rory and Tiger together. We know that's coming. Could be fun.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Can't wait for their first joint commercial!

Walker: The marketing strategy should be: Let Rory be Rory. He understands this stuff more than a roomful of marketing MBAs.

Hanger: I would market him as a jet-setting, hard-working, preternaturally talented golfer from Northern Ireland who just happens to also be sincere and likable. And as the heir apparent/friendly young rival to that other guy who plays Nike clubs.

Reiterman: I thought one of the best Nike commercials was when they showed Anthony Kim, Stewart Cink and other Nike players winning all those tournaments, and then Tiger walked into the locker room and everyone went silent. I hope Nike strikes a similar tone with Rory.

Herre: I wouldn't presume to offer marketing advice to the masters of marketing, but it will be interesting to see if Nike tries to capitalize on Rory's humaneness. Nike usually likes edge in its marketing.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I agree that however Nike positions Rory it'll have that familiar edge.

Bamberger: Market him as a young man who actually has an interest in the world around him, which is how he came across when I first met him.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: How would you market McIlroy if you worked at Nike?

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