English golfing legend Nick Faldo is warning Rory McIlroy not to underestimate the gravity of a lucrative sponsor switch from Titleist to Nike.
McIlroy, 23, is reportedly set to announce a $250 million megadeal with Nike in the coming weeks, taking the place of Tiger Woods as the sportswear giant's biggest endorsee.
The deal will make the world number one the undisputed face of golf and the sport's biggest earner, a far cry from his modest deal with Titleist, signed five years ago when he first turned pro.
But Faldo, who won six majors and was the world number one for 98 weeks during his heyday, says the rumoured Nike deal could scupper McIlroy's bid for more majors.
"The bottom line is he's doing it for money," Faldo told The Telegraph.
"When he looks at a 20-year career it's not necessary. If he carries on and wins more majors he'll be worth hundreds of millions anyway.
"Sure this is a wonderful guarantee, but Rory knows the biggest thing is winning golf tournaments. If he believes that's still going to happen, fine. But if it holds him back for a split second in his mind, then you will question it.
"As professional golfers we get a millisecond of feedback from impact. And if you get that lovely feedback and the ball goes where you want it, that's a tick in the confidence box.
"But if you think, 'oh, that felt different' and the ball doesn't go where you want it to go, it starts to eat away at your confidence."
McIlroy has already confirmed the season-ending Dubai World Championship will be his last event using Titleist equipment, and says he is not concerned about a change in clubs for 2013.
While Faldo doesn't believe a switch will negatively affect McIlroy's game in the long run, he says the 23-year-old is making a mistake by not setting out to make his own name.
"I'm surprised he’s going to Nike," says Faldo. "Tiger has made that his brand and to join someone else's brand really surprises me, as I thought he would stick to his own thing.
"Rory could easily start 'The Rory Brand' and build his own identity. He's that popular he doesn't need to be a Nike guy, or Adidas guy or whatever.
"When you're 23 and world No.1, what a great time to build 'The Rory Brand' – a true brand, not somebody else's."