A year ago, Rory McIlroy had just won the 2012 Honda Classic, defying final round surges from Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood to record what was then, his third victory on tour.
With that win, he leapfrogged Woods to the world number one position and became the second youngest holder of the crown in golf history.
High in confidence, he went onto win another three times in 2012, including an eight shot victory in the final major of the year, the PGA Championship.
But at the start of 2013, the dollar signs lit up in the eyes of Rory – and who could blame him?
He signed a $200 million deal over five years as the headline act of Nike Golf. As part of the deal, McIlroy would be forced to relinquish the Titleist clubs and apparel, which had served him so well in previous years, for the latest in ‘golf technology’.
The President of the ‘Swoosh’ brand’s golf line, Cindy Davis, stated at the time it was, “one of the most important moments in the history of Nike Golf.”
This ‘important moment’ has turned out to be a nightmare for both Nike and McIlroy. Rory has failed to make a cut on the PGA Tour this year and looks like a fish out of water with his new clubs.
You can see it in his body image on the course that he no longer trusts his driver off the tee, to his putter on the green. The media have planted a seed in his head about the clubs and that seed sprouted last week at the 2013 Honda Classic.
McIlroy was very lucky to shoot par in the first round. His numbers were dismal, including in the categories of accuracy off the tee and his touch around the green.
His poor form shone through on day two though as he shot seven over through seven holes before withdrawing because of ‘tooth pain’.
I am supportive of players who need to withdraw due to injuries which will directly influence their swing such as back, hip or leg pain. But for the world number one to withdraw because he couldn’t beat the pain of a tooth ache is beyond me.
These players are so good because they are meant to get through hardships and struggles better than the rest of us amateurs. Professional golfers do one thing for a living and that’s play golf.
For Rory to pick up his ball and give in mentally last week showed he is so fragile with his golf that he needs to spend an extended period away from the game to overcome his difficulties.
It is not easy for any golfer, including us weekend hacks, to go from using our favourite clubs that we have had since 1999 to then switch over to a brand that isn’t well received among the vast majority of professional golfers.
McIlroy is essentially starting from scratch in terms of getting the feel for his clubs and ball. This will take time and, fortunately, Rory has that on his side.
The terrible irony in all this is the situation with Tiger Woods. The man who has put Nike Golf on the map for the past decade had been pushed aside for the next big thing in McIlroy.
Now, Woods is on the prowl to reclaim the number one spot of which he held for a record 623 weeks, despite boasting a considerably weaker salary than the Northern Irishman.
Amidst the scandals – Oscar Pretorius, Lance Armstrong, the public marriage breakdown of Woods and now the collapse of McIlroy – Nike have had a damning period, which they must move on from swiftly.
Defiant to stay at the top, McIlroy will play at Doral this week in the Cadillac Championship and the hottest questions remain.
Can McIlroy endure? Will he switch back?
We will get another strong clue after this weekend.