Rory McIlroy. AFP PHOTO / Jim Watson
Rory McIlroy dominates the chatter amid heightened new year intrigue over the latest equipment deals in professional golf.
January is often the month when new contracts are agreed. Players sign with club manufacturers in a process that boosts the bank balance but, despite the hype, does not guarantee lower scores – not that they would admit as much.
But 2017 provides a different landscape in the golf equipment market and McIlroy is trying to make the most of current circumstances.
The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland remains a highly remunerated poster boy for Nike, which has provided all his golf equipment, clothing and footwear since 2013.
However, with the American sports giant announcing in August that it is pulling out of the club and ball part of the industry, McIlroy now has the pick of what else is around, while continuing to wear the Nike logo on his sleeve.
This also applies to other players in the Nike stable, including Tiger Woods.
McIlroy has spent much of the past few weeks testing new equipment and it seems he will continue his quest to add to his four major titles with a completely changed bag.
Having ended last year with Taylormade woods, Nike irons and ball, and a Scotty Cameron putter, McIlroy is considering wholesale change when he begins his golfing year at next week’s South African Open.
According to the “No Laying Up” blog, which carried a lengthy podcast with the player last year, McIlroy is planning to use Callaway woods and irons, Titleist ball and wedges, and an Odyssey putter.
While he has been inundated with offers from manufacturers keen for him to use their kit, the world number two is in the rare position of being beholden to no-one but himself.
His time on the range has been spent marrying together a combination that will best suit his game and technique with no corporate compromise. As a free agent, he will be able to mix and match as the year progresses.
Competition between manufacturers is as intense as it is amid the players on the course. They pay a lot of money for the leading stars to endorse their products and contracts are stringent.