After a disappointing 2013 season in which Rory McIlroy slipped from No. 1 in the world to seventh, it became abundantly clear that some type of change was needed. Did he need to move away from lifelong swing coach Michael Bannon? Was he spending too much time with his now-fiancee Caroline Wozniacki? Did he need to create a loophole in his lucrative Nike contract that would enable him to go back to his Titleist clubs?
As it turned out, McIlroy did none of those things, and the 24-year-old is doing just fine. He’s off to a hot start in 2014, having finished T-2 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in mid-January with a four-day total of 13 under par. Today, playing in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic alongside Tiger Woods, he opened with an electrifying 63 to lead by two shots. While there are myriad factors people could point to to explain his resurgence, most notably moving past two notable legal battles, he owes at least part of his recent success to two equipment changes.
In November, McIlroy made the switch the Nike’s VRS Covert 2.0 driver and the company’s RZN Black golf ball. It’s his driving that has garnered the most attention as of late. ESPN’s Bob Harig noted after his 63 that, “His (Rory’s) drives seemingly soar as high as the Dubai skyscrapers, allowing him to take advantage of his enormous length off the tee to set up birdie chances.” McIlroy hit 12 of 14 fairways in the first round and averaged a whopping 309 yards off the tee in the process.
When he’s driving it that effectively and is able to make a few putts, he’s nearly unbeatable.
McIlroy raved about the new driver soon after making the switch back in November of 2013. “The larger face has given me more forgiveness on misses,” McIlroy told PGATour.com’s Jonathan Wall. “I know that if I hit one off center it’s not going to get away from me. My ball flight has also tightened up a bit, which makes you more confident so you can go after it a little more.” That quote is oozing with confidence, and is a great sign of things to come.
It looks like he’ll have no problem returning to golf’s center stage with swooshes on his clubs rather than cursive writing.