“I'm really excited that I have teamed up with TaylorMade,” McIlroy said, as he addressed the international press on Tuesday. “As I said, I needed to address a few issues after Augusta. I alluded to the fact that I wasn't really happy with the golf ball I was playing and I needed to do something. 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, worked with a lot of different things, but I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on TrackMan on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball, that new TP5x ball that they have, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I need. This is exactly the thing that I've been struggling with, and this is, I feel, is what I need.’
“And then over the over the course of the next few days, I tested different combinations, a lot of different stuff, and I came to the conclusion that that was the best way forward for me to try and improve, try and win more, try to get back to world No. 1, try to win more majors. So I'm really excited about that.”
For the record, McIlroy said he played a Titleist ball earlier this year but testing with Trackman showed the TP5x performed better, especially in the wind. Before signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Nike in 2013, McIlroy played exclusively Titleist equipment, including clubs and balls.
The new TP5x ball to which McIlroy referred is a five-layer, urethane-covered ball introduced earlier this year by TaylorMade. It’s the same ball used by current world No. 1 Johnson. Also, Sergio Garcia used a TP5 – not the X model – to win the Masters a month ago.
McIlroy was already playing TaylorMade’s M2 driver and fairway woods, having gone to them earlier this year. This week, he will put a set of prototype blades TaylorMade has made for him into play, along with TM’s Milled Grind wedges.
The putter remain in limbo, but for this week, a TaylorMade Spider looks to be getting the starting nod.
“I'm working through a few things. 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,” McIlroy said
If you’re wondering about hybrids, forget it. With the kind of swing speed McIlroy generates, he doesn’t need the “help” many of us do in getting long irons airborne.
“… 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 D.J. plays, as well.”
McIlroy’s Tour Preferred UDI (utility driving iron) is even fitted with the same Project X HZRDUS Black shaft that Johnson uses. But McIlroy’s “1-iron” is actually 2-iron loft, having been bent from 16 to 18 degrees.
All of the new weaponry will be carried in a TaylorMade staff bag, a change from the bag Rory used earlier this year, which sported the logo of his charitable Rory Foundation. The 28-year-old from Northern Ireland, who turned professional in 2007, will still wear the Nike swoosh from head to toe.
“I've been on Tour 10 years, and this is – it's very rare that you get really excited about your equipment, but I'm – I am, 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.”
It’s hard to imagine what the “next level” could mean for a player with McIlroy’s already impressive résumé. His 13 Tour victories include the 2011 U.S. Open, 2104 Open Championship and both the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships. Add to that two WGC titles and last year’s Tour Championship, as well as nine international titles, four Ryder Cup and two World Cup appearances, and it’s hard to imagine that there is a next level for the player who won’ turn 30 until May 4, 2019.
Still, McIlroy, like all golfers, is looking to improve and believes his new equipment will help him do just that.
“Obviously going in here,” McIlroy said, as he looked ahead to Thursday’s first round of The Players, “first competitive event, there may be some tweaks that I need to do coming out of this event because there's just some stuff you don't learn until you put it in play in a tournament. But I'm comfortable with what I've got right now, and I'm excited to put it – I'm excited to go out on the golf course on Thursday and see how it performs.”
With the McIlroy signing, TaylorMade currently has the top three players in the Official World Golf Rankings on staff – Johnson, McIlroy and Jason Day, respectively.