Question marks for Faldo over McIlroy, Woods

Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:39pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Golf fans are eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the growing rivalry between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods but former world number one Nick Faldo has doubts on either player achieving his best this year.

Faldo said McIlroy made a "dangerous move" in changing his club manufacturer earlier this season while he believes 14-times major winner Woods can never return to golfing dominance without regaining a "go-to shot" to use in pressure situations.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, who won his second major title by a record eight shots at the PGA Championship in August, switched his club brand last month from Titleist to Nike in a lucrative deal reported to be worth as much as $250 million over 10 years.

"Rory went from rookie of the year to world number one with the same equipment and now he's changed absolutely everything which I know, from personal grief, is dangerous," six-times major champion Faldo told Reuters.

"Once I heard the news, I tweeted it was a dangerous move. It's risky because it's all about the feel and sound of the golf ball, it's the feel and sound of the putter face, it's the feel and sound and the torque of a driver."

Faldo, a three-times British Open champion who now works as the lead golf analyst on television for CBS Sports and Golf Channel, said that even very similar brands of golf clubs would feel very different to a player who had switched manufacturers.

"Factually yes, you can get really, really close but feel-wise, sound-wise, no, not even close," the 53-year-old old added while shaking his head. "You get a millisecond at impact and you've known exactly how that sounded and reacted before.

"People say, 'Oh, Rory can adapt,' but why should he be adapting at this time in his career? He might just waltz through and it's all fine. Or you may even say, 'Hey, whatever his goals were before, he may have made them a little more difficult.'   Continued...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during a practice round for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship golf tournament in Marana, Arizona February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan