McIlroy Has Extended Period to Figure out New Clubs

Earlier this week, the 23-year-old signed a huge contract with Nike to wear its clothes and shoes, and play the clubs built by the sports-equipment giant. But after posting two straight 3-over 75s to miss the cut in the European Tour event, golf's top-ranked player must either make some adjustments with his new clubs or with his swing.

"I knew it was going to be a tough week with everything going on, but I was just looking forward to getting to the golf course and getting back to what I do and what I'm comfortable with," McIlroy told reporters following his round Friday.

"It just didn't work out like that. I hit the ball really well last week in practice in Dubai and just sort of gradually got worse this week for some reason. But I'm going to spend the weekend here and practice and work at it with (longtime swing coach) Michael (Bannon) a little bit."

Time is certainly on McIlroy's side as he's not expected to return to competition until the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship February 20-24 in Arizona.

McIlroy has already made a change, switching from his new Nike Method putter to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron before Friday's round in Abu Dhabi.

"I just felt like the greens that I've been practicing on in Florida are a lot faster than these," he explained of the switch. "The putter, the Nike putter is great on that. But then getting to here . . . it's a weight issue more than anything else. I can feel the head on this one I used today a little bit better. On fast greens, the other one works fine."

More than anything, McIlroy lamented his inability to meet his usual high standards of play in his first competitive rounds of the year. "All aspects of my game were off," he said.

"I didn't drive the ball well. My iron play wasn't anywhere near the standard that it usually is for me. I'm just struggling with my game a little bit. Feel like I'm spinning out of it a lot, hitting out of the heel quite a lot. Just need to put in a bit of work on the range."

In a statement emailed to reporters, Nike recognized that McIlroy's change to new equipment involves an adjustment period. "We understand it takes time," the statement read. "It's a process and we are confident he'll change when he's ready."