Rory McIlroy was introduced today as a Nike athlete, joining megastars like Tiger Woods and LeBron James in a deal reportedly worth up to $125 million dollars. As a two-time major champion and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year at the age of 23, McIlroy is the heir apparent to take over Tiger Woods’ throne at the top of golf, and Nike commemorated the moment with this very well done commercial.
The commercial evokes memories of the Converse commercial Larry Bird and Magic Johnson appeared in, going one-on-one against each other, and later the McDonald’s “horse” commercial with Michael Jordan and Bird trading shots for a Big Mac. Rory vs. Tiger has a different dynamic than those sets of players, largely because there is literally no rivalry between the world’s top two golfers, save for any superfluous rivalry drummed up on sports talk shows. Rory has run away from the field in his two major wins, while Tiger hasn’t won a major since 2008, before Rory splashed onto the PGA scene. The only person Tiger is measuring himself against is Jack Nicklaus, who is 73 years old. Rory, for his part, is not trying to beat modern-day Tiger, he’s trying to beat the 2000 edition of Tiger, who dominated the game so relentlessly that it seemed he’d rack up 30 or 40 majors before he retired. Hopefully this year both players will regularly battle it out on Major Sundays, give golf a much needed rivalry rather than a buddy comedy, and invariably make Nike millions of dollars.