PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Rory McIlroy has enthusiastically begun the latest chapters of his life.
Two weeks ago he married Erica Stoll in an elaborate, intimate wedding at Ashford Castle in Ireland, saying it was “obviously the best weekend of my life and hopefully the best weekend of Erica’s, as well.”
On Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass ahead of Thursday’s start of The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s showcase event, he announced his new partnership with TaylorMade.
McIlroy, who started looking for new clubs when Nike got out of the equipment business in 2016, has settled on TaylorMade’s M2 metal woods, wedges, a set of prototype blade irons and the company’s new TP5x golf ball.
“I’ve been on Tour 10 years, and it’s very rare that you get really excited about your equipment,” the four-time major champion 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.”
The deal is worth $100 million over 10 years, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The same person said McIlroy is still under contract with Nike to wear their apparel and shoes for 10 years at $20 million per year.
“It seems like with everything that’s went on the last few weeks with getting married and teaming up with TaylorMade and everything, it seems like everything’s very settled,” McIlroy said. “There’s not many question marks going on in my life right now. I feel like everything’s exactly where it’s meant to be, and if you feel like that off the golf course, then I can only imagine that it will help you on it.”
McIlroy, 28, hasn’t played since he finished in a tie for seventh in the Masters. But it was at Augusta National Golf Club when McIlroy said “issues” started popping up with his game, most notably with the golf ball. So the day after he left Augusta and just before his wedding, McIlroy started experimenting.
“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,” he said. “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.’ … 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.”
After attaining the world No. 1 spot on seven different occasions — for a total of 95 weeks at the top — McIlroy is now No. 2 but nearly five points behind Dustin Johnson. After he won the 2016 FedExCup with victories in the Deutsche Bank Championship and The Tour Championship, he started his year with a playoff loss in the South African Open. But he suffered a stress fracture of a rib and was forced to sit for seven weeks.
He returned to finish in a tie for seventh in the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and then tied for fourth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In his last start before the Masters he tied for 30th in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
With all that has happened this year — the injury, the wedding, the equipment change — McIlroy hasn’t been allowed to get in a sustained rhythm. He joked that after his honeymoon he has to shed a few pounds. He still has to get used to his new equipment when he’s playing “under the gun” of a tournament to see how the ball reacts. And he’s still working with various putters to find a proper match.
But the winner of 13 Tour titles and 22 events worldwide is ready to crank up his play with many big tournaments remaining on the schedule, starting with this week’s Players. After missing the cut the first three times he played, he has become more comfortable on the arduous TPC Stadium Course. He has two ties for eighth, a tie for sixth and last year’s tie for 12th in his other four starts here.
He’s in a good place in his life and he’s at a good place this week. He’s healthy. He’s married. Now he just has to get used to his new equipment.
“Everything’s been great. I feel like my game’s in good shape,” he said. “Obviously going in here, my 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 go out on the golf course on Thursday and see how it performs.”