WORLD NUMBER TWO Rory McIlroy tees off tomorrow in the South African Open hoping a change of clubs will not trigger a loss of form.
The last time the 27-year-old from Northern Ireland made his seasonal debut with new equipment was four years ago, and he initially struggled to adapt.
It was the only time in the past eight years that the four-time major winner finished outside the top five in his first appearance of the year.
The withdrawal of Nike from club manufacturing forced McIlroy to change and he has spent several weeks in Dubai experimenting with various brands.
For his first South African Open appearance since 2008, he will use woods and irons from one manufacturer, wedges and balls from another and a putter from a third.
McIlroy has been paired with defending champion Brandon Stone and another South African, three-time European Tour winner George Coetzee, in the first two rounds, starting tomorrow morning.
A 7-4 favourite to win the second oldest national golf championship after the British Open, McIlroy quickly adapted to his new clubs at Glendower Golf Club near Johannesburg.
“The first few holes of my practice round were not great but once I got into the rhythm, everything was fine,” said McIlroy who is joined in the South African Open field by Darren Clarke.
“I am in South Africa to play well and get my confidence up,” said the star who has won every major bar the US Masters.
McIlroy said it could take time before settling on a new equipment combination as he seeks to overtake world number one Jason Day of Australia.
“My choice of equipment may change from week to week. We will see how I fare in South Africa.
“You never know until you study a card after a round. Besides, the golfer swinging the club is more important than the club itself.”