PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy, the four-time major winner ranked No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, announced at TPC Sawgrass he has signed a long-term endorsement contract with TaylorMade.
McIlroy had played Nike golf clubs and balls from 2013 until last season, and he will continue to wear Nike clothing and shoes, but Nike announced in August it would no longer make clubs or balls. McIlroy used TaylorMade woods in a few tournaments last year and most recently played mostly Callaway equipment.
The deal means the top three players in the world – Dustin Johnson, McIlroy and Jason Day – are using TaylorMade equipment. Throw in Masters champion Sergio Garcia at No. 6, and TaylorMade has four of the top six players in the world. TaylorMade also struck a deal with Tiger Woods in January, but Woods has been unable to play most of the year and had his fourth back surgery in April. Parent company Adidas announced last year it intended to sell TaylorMade.
McIlroy, fresh off his wedding to Erica Stoll and their honeymoon, said the TaylorMade ball was the most important factor in his decision to sign the undisclosed deal.
“I wasn’t really happy with the golf ball I was playing, and I needed to do something,” McIlroy said during his press conference Tuesday at the Players Championship. “I felt like I struggled in the wind. So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta. (I) worked with a lot of different things, but I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on TrackMan (launch monitor) on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball, that new TP5x ball that they have. I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I need.’ This is exactly the thing that I’ve been struggling with, and this is, I feel, what I need.”
The TP5x is a five-piece, urethane ball TaylorMade released in December.
When asked about the fitting sessions with McIlroy after the Masters, TaylorMade PGA Tour manager Keith Sbarbaro said, “That ball was the star of the show.”
Sbarbaro said he went to The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fla., shortly after the Masters, and there was a 12-15 mph wind blowing directly into McIlroy on the range. Hitting 7- and 8-irons, McIlroy compared the performance of different balls in the windy conditions. The numbers showed that, for him, the TaylorMade ball was affected less by the wind.
The TaylorMade woods were more familiar to McIlroy than the ball. The Northern Irishman had used TaylorMade M2 fairway woods at the Masters, and he used an M2 driver briefly last year. He has three M2 drivers at TPC Sawgrass.
“Rory said he was having trouble turning the ball over (hitting shots from right to left) at Augusta, so we added loft to his driver and that should help him do that more easily,” Sbarbaro said. “He’s got a 9.5-degree driver that is really at about 8.75, and he’s got an 8.5 degree that is right around 8.5. He doesn’t know which one he is going with this week, but he’s also got an 8.5 that is at 8 degrees. So really, he’s got hot, middle and high.”
McIlroy has used minimalist, muscleback blades his entire career, and that is not changing.
“They very kindly made me a prototype set of blades that I’ve put in the bag, which are beautiful,” he said. “And then, similar sort of wedge setup, the Milled Grind wedges in 48 (degrees), and then depending upon the course, it’s either going to be 52, 56 and 60 (degrees) or a 54 and a 60. And then I’ve got a 1-iron in the bag this week that could be helpful around here. I think it’s the same one that (Dustin Johnson) plays, as well.”
The 1-iron is a TaylorMade Tour Preferred UDI that originally had 16 degrees of loft, but it was bent to 18 degrees (2-iron loft) and fitted with the same Project X HZRDUS Black shaft that Johnson uses.
“And the putter, I’m working through a few things,” McIlroy said. “I’ve got a Spider in the bag that I’ve tried over the past few days, but yeah, it’s a work in progress. So we’re trying to find the right one.”
With his wedding and honeymoon completed and a new endorsement deal signed, McIlroy seemed very comfortable and at ease sitting on the podium Tuesday morning. A lot of big decisions have been made over the last six weeks, and he is eager to continue his season.
“I’ve been on tour 10 years, and it’s very rare that you get really excited about your equipment, but I am,” he said. “I feel like it’s a new chapter in my life with a lot of stuff going on, but I really feel with the new equipment, as well, it’s hopefully going to take me to that next level.”