The Golfer of the Year – an award Ballesteros won on three occasions in 1986, ‘88 and ‘91 – is voted for by the golf media. He beat off competition from Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Rookie of the Year Jon Rahm...
McIlroy Fired Up by New Nike Equipment
It’s been a long road for both Rory McIlroy and his legion of supporters, but after an agonising nine months of criticism, it appears the Northern Irishman’s multi-million dollar switch to Nike is finally about to pay off.
McIlroy has sounded a warning – and it’s loud and clear. His rivals should be wary, he says, declaring he’s finally found the best driver and golf ball combination of his career.
Four days removed from an equal best finish in 11 months and the former world number one was standing among only 11 players in managing to break par on day one of the BMW Masters in Shanghai.
His one-under-par 70 had him lying six shots behind runaway leader Luke Guthrie, who was afforded an invitation and had just 19 putts that was one shy of a European Tour record. Elsewhere on the field, former Open champion John Daly put an end to his four-month absence following surgery to his right elbow to soar into second place with a convincing 68.
McIlroy has been knocked by the media and golf fans in equal measure since his big-money move to Nike was completed, yet could this be the moment when everything falls into place for both player and company? McIlroy certainly thinks so.
“The driver I’m now using and the new Nike ball I’m hitting I think is the best driver and ball combination I’ve ever had in my career,” McIlroy said.
“I’m hitting the highest ball speed ever that’s average 180 mph and this is the first year in my career I’ve got into the 180s in ball speed, and this new driver has upped that again and with the new ball being softer around the greens.
“I first tested the new ball at the Bridgestone Invitational and they gave me a couple of dozen to hit at a Nike shoot in L. A. on the Monday after the Tour Championship, so I brought a couple of dozen home with me.
“But then the most comforting thing for me stepping onto a first tee is that I am swinging the club well again, at last. That’s more comforting than anything else.
“It means that I won’t have to spend any time over the Christmas and New Year break on any testing with Nike.”