|Rory McIlroy signs with Nike. (Nike)|
"I don't play golf for the money. I'm well past that. I play for titles."
Those were the words coming from Rory McIlroy's mouth Monday from Abu Dhabi during his introduction to the world of Nike.
And yet everything around him -- the laser show, the smoke machine, the Tiger Woods commercial dripping in virality, the congratulations from Wayne Rooney, Roger Federer, and Phil Knight -- screamed something very different.
The most fascinating aspect of McIlroy's big switch in sponsorship is not how much it will boost his bank account but how it will affect his game.
He will be a 14-club and head-to-toe Nike golfer. "All in," as those in the business like to say.
When Tiger Woods made the same switch in equipment -- Titleist to Nike -- it was gradual, it happened over a long period of time. He still has an on-again-off-again relationship with his Nike putter.
Not many people recall this, but McIlroy wasn't very good for a long stretch of play last year. After the Wells Fargo Championship here's what his next five tournaments looked like:
Cut | Cut | T7 | Cut | T60
The last two of which came at the U.S. Open and British Open.
As far as world No. 1s go, he's still a bit fragile -- definitely not the stalwart Woods was at the apex of his career.
So while a switch to Nike gear might be fantastic from a financial standpoint (and it is), it might be much less so when it comes to competition.
McIlroy has confidence in his new stuff, though.
I'm really excited about the equipment and couldn't be happier with what's in my bag.
When pressed about whether or not Nike would allow him to go back to his old Scotty Cameron putter if the Nike Method putter failed him, he said:
I'm not here to get into specifics of the contract.
Well, OK, then.
He assured everyone, however, that he expects no hiccups in his game.
Everything's been great. Hitting the ball really well. I think the change to the new equipment has been seamless.
And that he expects to fall in line with all of Nike's other greats.
I've watched Tiger make some history, also Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal. I'm excited to make my own history. If I'm sitting at the end of 2013 and haven't won a major I'd be disappointed, yeah.
So it is the question that will be on everyone's mind as Tiger and Rory tee it up this week in a faraway land: How will McIlroy change as a golfer in 2013? Plus, how will this affect the arc of his career? Will it take him to the next level, the legendary status Tiger has achieved?
And it's the enticement of receiving an answer that will keep us coming back for more.