Rory McIlroy took some positives from what was a rather uneventful season-opening round at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
McIlroy carded just two birdies against one bogey at Sheshan International, shooting a 1-under 71 that left him seven shots behind Rikard Karlberg. It marked McIlroy’s first competitive round since he added TaylorMade fairway woods into his bag, including a new driver, and the early results have the Ulsterman smiling.
“I felt like I drove the ball really well,” McIlroy told reporters. “Look, I’ve been driving the ball well anyway, but yeah, it was nice to see the ball flying where it was going.”
McIlroy is free to play any combination of clubs since Nike announced its exit from the golf equipment space in August. He played the opening round alongside Bubba Watson and Adam Scott, and while he believes his old equipment would have allowed him to keep up off the tee, his new TaylorMade driver helped him hit it past both players with regularity Thursday.
“Especially when the conditions are like this and it’s so soft, it goes a long way in the air,” he said. “Hopefully that can be to my benefit over the next few days.”
McIlroy has remained non-commital about his equipment future, instead using the time since the Nike announcement to get a feel for what options might be available. It’s a strategy that, based on his comments to media members Wednesday, won’t be changing anytime soon.
“I’m trying a couple of things this week. It definitely doesn’t mean that it’s permanent, but it gives me the freedom to go at the end of the year and try some stuff out and be in the position where I can use whatever in my golf bag that fits me 100 percent the best,” McIlroy said. “So that could be a certain driver and then a different brand of 3-wood and a different branded set of irons and different wedges and a different putter. That’s a process that I’m still working through.”