Rory McIlroy’s eagerly awaited announcement as a Nike Golf player ended with him making another impassioned plea for Paul McGinley to get the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2014.
The world No 1 was officially unveiled with the famous Nike swoosh in a high-tech show featuring dry ice and laser beams. But it was his comments on the late move for Colin Montgomerie and his unwavering support for McGinley that caught the eye.
Asked by Karl MacGinty of the Irish Independent how strongly he felt about Europe adhering to its unwritten “one-time-only” rule on the Ryder Cup captaincy and what he admired about McGinley, McIlroy said: “I strongly believe in it. I feel like everyone deserving should get their chance.
“I played under Paul at the Seve Trophy in 2009 and I thought he did an unbelievable job.
“Out of any captain that I have played under I would feel that he’s been the best. He brought a lot to the team room.
“You know, I actually don’t feel like Monty has anything to gain by this because if we go to Gleneagles and lose, he is already a winning Ryder Cup captain.
“As I said, I’m fully behind Paul and I think Paul should get the job and hopefully he does.”
Pressed to explain what qualities made McGinley special in his eyes, McIlroy said: “I think it is just the small details. He doesn’t leave any stone unturned and he gives confidence to the team room.
“I just had a great experience playing under him and even when he was a vice captain in the two Ryder Cups I’ve played, he has always brought a lot to the table, a lot of ideas and I just think he would make a really great captain.”
Montgomerie had taken over as the bookies favourite earlier on Monday with Sky Sports News reporting that his team was “confident” he would win tomorrow’s vote.
But within minutes of McIlroy’s Nike conference, Dubliner McGinley was back as favourite with bookies Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair.
McIlroy tweeted his support for McGinley on Sunday evening, telling McIlroy his 1.46 million Twitter followers: “Ryder Cup captaincy should be a one time thing. Everybody deserving gets their chance and moves on. Would love to play under Paul McGinley in ‘14.”
The launch featured video contributions from Nike clients Wayne Rooney, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods as well as an airing of the new Nike commercial featuring Woods and McIlroy.
“I think first and foremost I have always associated Nike with the best,” McIlroy said in his opening remarks. “When I was growing up watching athletes on TV, whether it be from the world of golf, football or tennis, all thebest athletes were in Nike apparel.
“Now that I had the opportunity to become a Nike athlete, I was really excited about this opportunity. I have watched Tiger make some history as a Nike athelte, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and I am excited to try and create my own history and be part of the Nike family and do that too.”
McIlroy revealed that the travelled to Nike’s famous Oven in Texas before Christmas and was “blown away” by what he saw.
He will be using the new Covert Driver as well as the Nike Method putter, Nike clothing and shoes.
Going through his bag, he explained:
“The new RS Covert Driver. It’s a little different. It’s red, which I liked from the start and it has the cavity back which is a new design in the world of golf. As soon as I hit it I knew it was going in the bag straight away. It just blew me away. My ball speed was up, my numbers were good, spin rates… and I am hitting it further. I thought I hit it far before but this has maybe taken it to a new level so it’s great. You can chane the face angle and the loft independently so I am on a 10.5 degree neutral setting with the Diamana shaft that I have played since the Open Championship last year.
Fairway woods are the new VR Limited. I want fairway woods you can hit fair but you also want them to be versatile. You can play shots with them so they are a great addition to the bag.
The VR Pro Blades. Very traditional looking but very playable, very workable. I feel like I can play any shot with them and the (VR Pro) wedges, the same. Any shot I have to play around the green I feel very comfortable.
The Nike Method putter, I was blown away by the groove technology on that and how well the ball rolled coming off the club-face. I am really confident and really excited to put it in play this week.
Nike 20XiX. It’s a firmer version. I spin the ball quite a lot so it helps me control my spin.
Questioned by Malachy Clerkin of The Irish Times about his decision to bag the Nike Method Putter and whether or not he was contracted to use it exclusively or could return to his favourite Scotty Cameron model, McIlroy insisted he was “very comfortable” with the Nike blade but played it coy on the contractual details:
“I am not here to get into specifics about the contract,” he said.
Reuters also asked a question about the length and value of the contract and whether or not it contained a “behaviour clauses” in the light of the scandals that affected Woods and disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
However, Nike Golf president Cindy Davis batted that one staight back, saying: “We make it a practice not commenting about the specific contracts of any athletes.”
Amid talk that his deal could be worth up to $250m over 10 years, he was asked if he was now rich beyond his wildest dreams by Jamie Corrigan of the Daily Telegraph.
McIlroy laughed and said: “I don’t play golf for the money. I am well past that. I am a major champion which is what I always dreamed of being. I am world No 1 which I always dream of being. I feel like this is company which can help me sustain that and win even more majors. I play for titles, I don’t play for money.”
Comparisons with Woods will only increase following McIlroy’s decision to join the Nike camp and when asked by David Facey of The Sun if he would judge his year on whether or not he won a major or not, McIlroy said: “I guess if I don’t win one this year then it will be a bad year because I have won one the last two (years). Yeah, if I am sitting here at the end of 2013 and I haven’t won a major, I will be disappointed, yeah.”