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Column: McIlroy feeling pressures of being No. 1
What McIlroy wanted to prove, of course, was that the new clubs introduced in a music and laser show in Abu Dhabi were just as good _ or better _ than the ones he used to win two major championships and become the world’s top player.. And they may be, though clearly the adjustment process has been more difficult for McIlroy than he publicly allows.
At a reputed $20 million a year, though, he’s got no choice but to play on with the Swoosh.
Woods went through a similar equipment change when he turned pro, though his was more gradual. Nike didn’t even make golf clubs when Woods signed with the company, and he had time to work them into his bag.
He is, however, linked to Woods in many ways. They played 36 holes together last weekend at Woods‘ home club in Florida after both were eliminated from the Match Play Championship in the first round, and they appear in Nike commercials together. They seem to have a budding friendship, something Woods hasn’t had with many players.
McIlroy could learn a lot from Woods about how to deal with life at the top. Woods has, for the most part, always been able to compartmentalize things and keep them from affecting his game. He’s also a master of talking to the media without really saying anything.
McIlroy, meanwhile, is still adjusting to constantly being in the public eye, and sometimes he’s too honest with the media for his own good. Having a tennis star for a girlfriend only adds to the mix.
“He’s a superstar, a global superstar. And that can only be pressure magnified,” McDowell said. “But he’ll get over it. He’s a smart kid.”
Hopefully McIlroy can get over it without building walls around him like Woods. Golf needs someone like McIlroy at the top, an affable player with great talent who is humble enough to still relate to fans. For years Woods didn’t sign autographs and even now he does so grudgingly.
If McIlroy made a mistake by walking off the course _ and he did _ it’s one he can learn from. The game can be humbling, even for its best player.
The Masters is little more than a month away, adding to the sense of urgency McIlroy surely feels. Maybe by then we’ll have a real sense what his issues are and he’ll have a sense of how he can overcome them.
The only thing for sure now is that golf will be in a better place when McIlroy is in a better place.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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