Rory McIlroy’s $250 million move from Titleist to Nike might look like the biggest gamble in sports but industry experts expect the world No 1 to remain on cruise control and Just Do It with the swoosh on his clubs.
The 23-year old Holywood hotshot is believed to have been working with the world’s biggest sports brand on designing the perfect set of clubs.
And while it may take a while to become used to the Nike ball, that should ease his transition to the new sticks, which will be unveiled when he tees it up alongside long-time Nike ambassador Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi in January.
As McIlroy himself pointed out last week: “After the Ryder Cup I started to test a little bit and I’ve got six or seven weeks to really get into it.
“I am pretty much set with everything and it’s just a matter of getting a little more comfortable with it and playing a few rounds and it should be okay.
“I am very confident. I feel that with the changes I have made in equipment in the past even though it was with the same manufacturer, I feel like I have got into clubs maybe a little easier than other players.
“I have basically got a set of irons, got the woods sorted and I guess it is just a matter of getting the ball dialled in and I will be good.”
Graeme McDowell had major trouble changing from the Callaway FT Tour to a Srixon driver following his 2010 US Open win.
Visually he had problems adjusting to what the industry calls “the frame” - the way the clubs looks behind the ball.
But McIlroy is on a different level and Foregolf’s Derek Murray, a former World Clubmaker of the Year, believes the Irish ace will make the move to Nike with minimal disruption.
Murray said: “It depends on talent and if you are a high skill player, you can move to whatever you need to move to.
“Take Miguel Angel Jimenez, he can play anything. I guarantee you, put anything in his hand and he will make it talk.
“If you are very connected to a product and your eye sees a certain thing and your hand feels a certain weight and your brain reacts differently to the look of a club - we call it framing on tour - you can have problems.
“When you put the club down behind the ball, it sets a frame. If you are particular about that, the frame has to remain the same.
“If the club sits a different way or a fraction out or looks different, it affects your confidence and how you hit the ball.”
McIlroy has never been an equipment junkie and insists he has the driver sorted, which means he has found a product that matches the Titleist model he has used since his amateur days and may even have been involved from the design stage.
Murray said: “Rory hasn’t played anything or than the teardrop style driver since they year dot.
“But my take is that if you are going to pay somebody that much money, you are going to make sure they are involved in pre-design so that when the whole thing is coming together it is all there.
“I would think that Nike have been smart enough to think along the same lines.”
Players have used prototype clubs stamped with the manufacturers name for many years with Seve Ballesteros the most famous case.
And that means that McIlroy will be using clubs that have been handbuilt especially for him at massive cost, rather than limiting himself to the best of whatever comes off a production line.
Murray added: “It happens. They take the very best of the best that they produce and put it in the high performance window. I don’t have any problem with that.
“I have seen drivers that had been specially built for Tiger - six of them lined up in a row - all slightly different but handmade.
“They cost a fortune, handmade and hand-welded, specifically weighted with the face thickness specifically changed so that it would be hot in the specific areas he wanted it to be hot. That could be heal side or nearer the toe.
“The point is that the stuff is being made specifically for the players, of course it is.
“You could buy your own plant for $2m in China, order the steel and away you go. A company like Nike can make whatever they want to the highest spec.
“Nike will have gone through all the options with Rory and waded through everything to get the very best clubs possible for him.”
Getting the right equipment has been crucial for McIlroy throughout his career.
And while other players have suffered by playing clubs that weren’t perfectly suited for their swings, McIlroy’s early mistakes gave him the distinctive double hip move that has become his trademark.
He injured the lower right side of his back as an 11 year old by using an eight degree driver with a shaft that was too stiff for him.
Battling to get the ball airborne forced him to build a hip tilt into his game and that led to the famous hip kick that gives him his extra length.
Moving to Nike won’t put such a big kink in his game.
With a billion dollars in potential future earnings on the line, nobody can afford to take that chance.