At the start of 2015, I had a chance to interview Nike Golf’s past and present in Tiger Woods. Towards the end of the year, I spoke with Nike Golf’s other present and future in Rory McIlroy. Like I said back then, 2015 is a strange but totally awesome time.
Since signing on with Nike in 2013, Rory McIlroy has experienced the entire spectrum of the golf experience. His first year with the swoosh was not what everybody had hoped after a breakthrough 2012 that saw him win his second major championship. But his 2014 season included an amazing stretch where he was seemingly invincible, topped off by a pair of major victories to give him a career total of four before the age of 26. An ankle injury really hampered his major hopes in 2015, but he still managed a pair of victories and now is poised to take the top spot in the Race To Dubai, the European Tour equivalent to the FedEx Cup.
Prior to this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai – where McIlroy also keeps a home and practices there when weather permits – we had a chance to speak with Rory and newly-named Nike Golf VP Gentry Humphrey about the new Nike Lunar Control 4, the direction Nike Golf is taking with the sport skewing younger now and what surprises we might expect in the future. Sadly, I wasn’t able to ask Gentry about a Galaxy Lunar Control 4 but there’s always next time.
On Rory’s game at the moment, which has been hampered by injury:
Rory – It feels really good. I feel like it’s taken quite a bit of time to get back in my stride since this summer, but it’s gotten better every time I’ve come back… I have a great chance to the end the season well. It would be a great momentum builder heading into 2016.
On what Gentry brings to Nike Golf:
Gentry – It’s really about passion and being passionate about what you do. Over the years I’ve been associated with the sport of basketball (Gentry was a key executive at Jordan Brand and Nike Sportswear prior to Nike Golf) and all the great athletes there. But I love golf as well and the excitement that I have (bringing his perspective) into the game is going to be fun. We’re going to be telling stories (of Nike Golf athletes) and bringing that to the table.
We feel like we owe it to the game of golf to bring this modern (sensibility). Not just from a fashion standpoint, but a technology standpoint…
On the Lunar Control 4:
Gentry – We wanted to bring the best in stability and comfort. And if you’ll take a look at the shoe, you’ll notice the improvements (from the Lunar Control 3). Rory talks about having that lockdown fit and that they have a stable platform. We also took a look at the upper and at the end of the day, we didn’t want to prevent them from being able to do what they need to do.
Rory – I’ve been testing this shoe basically since the start of this year and fine-tuning for what I want. I use the ground a lot with my golf swing and that’s why I’m able to hit the ball a long ways for the size that I am so I need a shoe that’s stable. Especially in the golf swing you’re doing different things, your left foot is moving and your right foot has to stabilize that motion and what this shoe offers is everything you need to have. It’s been a great shoe so far and I’m excited to put it to use this week.
Gentry – So on the outsole we’ve got a Nike Control Plate which allows the athlete to have a stable platform… Then we have the midsole that has our Lunarlon cushioning system that offers the best comfort. One of the things we’re introducing is the external heel plate that helps a golfer like Rory with the amount of torque that he’s creating. We want to make sure that he’s locked down so that heel counter does that.
The upper consists of an technical microfiber material that allows the athlete to have comfort where it needs comfort and the strategically placed microfiber allows for breathability where it needs to be.
What’s coming in the future:
Gentry – We want to create the ultimate golf shoe. We’ve got some ideas for down the road that will change the game completely. Then we’ve got a few key silhouettes based on how our consumers play the game. We know there’s the traditional golfer, but we’re going to try and modernize and do something there and also look at the younger golfer athlete that’s been feeling the lane that we’ve been going on with the Lunar Control 4.
We’ll also bring some iconic point of views with some great products like you can even see something like the famous Nike Air Force 1 or one of Rory’s favorite shoes like the Air Max 90 and telling a unique point of view there.
We’re really about capturing this young consumer that aspires to be like Rory, the 14 year old kid that is living in this generation and grew up with Nike product on their feet. And we’re also going to build a product that works for the off the course as well.
On the swoosh on the toe, which we haven’t seen all that often in Golf:
Rory – I didn’t have a hand in the design of the swoosh placement, but we’ve all seen it in other sports like tennis and basketball and I thought it would be a cool idea and to have it be more in line with the other sports and as golfers and as athletes having a more athletic shoe and being with an athletic company it was a great fit. I felt like it would fit in the image of golf and I was all for it.