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Will leaving Titleist hurt Rory McIlroy's game? His 5 biggest hurdles

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#1 zakkozuchowski

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:13 PM

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Will leaving Titleist hurt Rory McIlroy's game? His 5 biggest hurdles

By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

Golf fans learned two things about Rory McIlroy’s future today: he will no longer endorse Titleist or FootJoy products as of Dec. 31, 2012, and another OEM is going to pay him an outrageous amount of money to play its equipment.

It has been widely speculated that McIlroy has already entered into a deal with Nike Golf to the tune of 10 years, $250 million. Nike is neither confirming nor denying the rumor, meaning McIlroy’s deal with Nike is either the worst-kept secret in golf history or one of the biggest rumor-mill hoaxes of all time. But here’s what golf fans do know -- McIlroy will be forced to shelve at least a few pieces of Titleist equipment he used to win the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by a record margin of eight shots.

Whatever company signs Rory McIlroy will do its best to accommodate his equipment preferences, but equipment changes, especially for a player of McIlroy’s caliber, can be as much about sound, feel and confidence as they are performance. That’s why six-time major champion Nick Faldo said on Tuesday’s “Morning Drive” on the Golf Channel that McIlroy’s decision to change equipment was “dangerous.”


"I’ve changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, ‘We can copy your clubs; we can tweak the golf ball so it fits you,’” Faldo said. “But there’s feel and sound as well, and there’s confidence. You can’t put a real value on that. It’s priceless.”


Based on the equipment McIlroy is playing now (Click here to see what was in his bag at the 2012 PGA Championship), we’ve made a list of the five biggest hurdles McIlroy will face as he migrates from Titleist equipment.

No. 5 – A new driver head/shaft combination

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Like snowflakes, no two golf shafts are exactly the same. Even shafts of the same model from the same manufacturer with the same listed specifications can have minuscule differences than top ball strikers like McIlroy can notice.

McIlroy switched to a new shaft, a Mitsubishi Diamana Prototype 70X, to go along with Titleist’s latest 913 D3 driver that he used to win the 2012 PGA Championship. But the move from his old driver with his old shaft were subtle tweaks to the look, feel and ball flight he was used to with his Titleist driver setup.

Going to a different driver will mean McIlroy will be playing something that looks and feels different. It will also likely perform different, which could mean a different shaft. If that new shaft doesn’t feel the same while McIlroy is unloading it at 120 mph, it will be problematic.

No. 4 – Working the ball with new fairway woods

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McIlroy’s last tournament victory came at the BMW Championship, where he used Titleist’s new 913Fd fairway woods (a 13.5-degree and 18-degree model) to fend off some of golf’s best players: Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Robert Garrigus, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and Ryan Moore, who all finished in the top 10 at Crooked Stick that week.

While McIlroy migrated to the 913Fd fairway woods quickly after their launch on tour, he didn’t have much success with Titleist’s previous model, the 910Fd fairway woods. He opted to stay with an older model, Titleist’s 906F2, saying he felt more confident and comfortable hitting a fade or draw on command with the older ones.

Because of McIlroy’s prodigious length, he frequently opts to hit 3 wood or 5 wood off the tee for more control or better position. This makes them vital clubs for him, especially in major championships where hitting fairways is at a premium. Changing fairway woods means changing that confidence level, at least for a little while. And at McIlroy’s level, a lack of confidence over even a single tee shot can be the difference between winning and losing.

No. 3 – Changing wedges

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After the driver, the first clubs that Tiger Woods put in his bag during his gradual transition from Titleist to Nike were a set of Nike forged muscleback irons. Rickie Fowler made a similar transition in 2012, changing over from a set of Titleist musclebacks to Cobras, which he used to win his first PGA Tour event.

Woods and Fowler had success switching models of muscleback irons because they are easiest clubs for OEMs to replicate for tour players. It would seem to make sense that OEMs could do the same thing with wedges for its new staff players, but that’s not the case.

Unlike irons, wedges are used in a variety of different playing positions and players use different parts of the sole to play different shots. This places a premium on the shaping, size and width of the sole of a tour player’s wedge. For this reason, Tiger held out for years before trading in his Vokey wedges and Fowler is still using his Vokeys while under contract with Cobra-Puma.

McIlroy has been playing Vokey wedges his entire professional career. While new wedges from a different manufacturer might look the same and even feel the same, perfecting things such bounce angle, sole width, camber and leading edge shape can take a long time.

No. 2 – Using an insert putter

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Putters are one of the most often changed pieces of equipment on tour. McIlroy has been no exception – he was a long-time user of a Scotty Cameron Newport Fastback Select prototype before changing to a Scotty Cameron Studio Select Newport GSS prototype that he used to win the 2011 U.S. Open.

If McIlroy goes to Nike, he will be expected to play a Method putter, which employs grooves in the face that Nike engineers say get the ball rolling faster after contact. More roll is good, but it can be another thing that takes getting used to.

Woods, who has been using a Nike Method putter consistently since his return to competitive golf at the 2010 Masters, has never found the success on the greens with a grooved putter that he enjoyed while using a Scotty Cameron. Woods said his Method putter took some adjustment because it had a different feel off the face and “rolled farther."

Any company that signs McIlroy would be doing him a huge favor by giving him a grace period on putter use, as the putter will likely be the most difficult club in the bag for him to switch out.

No. 1 – Switching from the Titleist Pro V1X

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

The golf ball is the only piece of equipment (other than shoes or gloves) that a player uses on every shot on the course. That makes the golf ball the most important part of an equipment switch for tour players, since it has to work with every one of their clubs.

Titleist leads on tour in golf ball usage. While its competitors have become very good at making golf balls, McIlroy can be assured that his next ball will not perform exactly like his old one. There are construction and material differences, all related to patents, which make it impossible.

McIlroy’s next ball will likely spin a little more or a little less, and perform differently in the wind than his Pro V1X. Even if the ball performs better, better is not always foolproof, because better means different.





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Some players are better suited to changing equipment than others. It is possible that McIlroy has already tested all of his future company’s new gear, and has worked with the company to create a set of equipment and a golf ball that is to his liking. If this is the case, the opportunity to make more money and the potential for more exposure are no-brainers for McIlroy. But the level of play that golf fans saw from McIlroy at the 2012 PGA Championship made it clear that it will be hard for Rory to find equipment that will make him a noticeably better golfer. He will, however, become noticeable richer and noticeable more famous.

It will be interesting to see how much of a grace period McIlroy is given when it comes to changing over to his new equipment. Will he be treated like Tiger Woods was before the scandal, whose contract stated that he could play any other manufacturer's equipment if he thought it was better, or will big money from a company like Nike mean an immediate 14-club deal including a change to one of their golf balls?

Golf fans should remember that golfers of Rory's caliber would have success with just about any set of equipment that was given to them. But at the highest level, it's the small things that make a difference, and that's exactly what McIlroy's new equipment deal will do -- change some small things.


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#2 tbowles411

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:20 PM

No.  :lock:

:D

#3 gregcindyh

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:27 PM

  • I know how difficult it is for me to change equipment and I'm a nobody...hopefully it won't effect Rory. But, he'll have a ton of cash to think about, which will certainly change other things in his life!

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#4 TaylorMadeMiura

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:29 PM

For a player like Rory, these equipment changes won't matter, at all. A few weeks and a few tweaks, then he is ready to go!

#5 practicetee

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:31 PM

Sorry but the only real problem I see with a pro switching from one brand to another is the golf ball these days.  Product cycles are much shorter than they were 20 years ago and because of that fact and the amount these endorsement contracts are worth there is a lot more pressure for pros to switch about half their bag every year.

You yourself say that Rory has switched just about every wood in his bag recently.  So what is there to say he can't do it again 3 months later?  And its not like the Diamana prototype he is playing is proprietary to Titleist.  I'm sure the Mitsubishi tour reps will be able to find another one just like it for him no matter where he ends up, or even get another one made to compensate for any more/less spin he is seeing from a new driver head.

While he has been loyal to Scotty Cameron, he has played quite a few different ones over the last 18 months, which if some remember made it kind of odd when the 'Inspired by Rory McIlroy' putter came out as he didn't just use one signature model but has bounced back and forth between a few.  So why can't any other brand make one that fits his eye as well?

The younger generation of players aren't the feel players like we've seen in the past in the game, they've become guys that say "Well what were the numbers on that shot?".  One of the few guys I can think of that doesn't fit into the new mold is Bubba Watson because of how much he works the ball.  Ping has had a real hard time getting his Ping S58's out of his hands over the past 4 years, but Rory McIlroy just doesn't fit that same description.

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#6 hogans71

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:42 PM

View Posttbowles411, on 30 October 2012 - 05:20 PM, said:

No.  :lock:

:D

This- a thousand times over...

#7 kekoa

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:42 PM

He's probably at the oven right now. working on 5 sets  that are very similar to what he plays w/ titleist.

#8 abass1

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:44 PM

the only thing I see making a difference is the putter. Nikes putters are not really used by anyone on tour that is not a nike player. tiger has never been the same with out his and why he switched to nike is still a mystery with the timing of the switch and the SCANDAL. (Some may say nike used the putter switch as a bargaining tool). Rory changing putter from a scotty to a nike is going to take some time to get used to. especially since nike does not custom make putter heads like scotty does as far as size look etc. yes Rory's putter will be a one of a kind custom putter, but it will probably be just as tigers and look like one of the current models they sell. The putters he played with scotty were often tour only designs that were built just for him. Part of the whole Nike advertising and sporship deal is they want the public to buy what their stars wear, play, use, etc. While I can't blame Rory for this move based on the numbers that are being thrown around and the allure of being one of two guys (Tiger being the other) that are the face of the nike golf brand, I think this could really slow his progress down. We all know how important the putter is and especially in majors and under pressure. I think this move could affect him more than we think and it could all be due to the putter. For his sake and the sake of the game, I hope I am wrong. The game needs a true rival to the best player ever, Tiger, and I hope this doesnt slow Rorys pace to being the next best in the world and Tigers Rival and eventual replacement. But hey, at least Nike has both of them under contract.

#9 MCCA

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:44 PM

No he will be fine

#10 MNoonan

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:55 PM

View Postpracticetee, on 30 October 2012 - 05:31 PM, said:

Sorry but the only real problem I see with a pro switching from one brand to another is the golf ball these days.  Product cycles are much shorter than they were 20 years ago and because of that   fact and the amount these endorsement contracts are worth there is a lot more pressure for pros to switch about half their bag every year.

You yourself say that Rory has switched just about every wood in his bag recently.  So what is there to say he can't do it again 3 months later?  And its not like the Diamana prototype he is playing is proprietary to Titleist.  I'm sure the Mitsubishi tour reps will be able to find another one just like it for him no matter where he ends up, or even get another one made to compensate for any more/less spin he is seeing from a new driver head.

While he has been loyal to Scotty Cameron, he has played quite a few different ones over the last 18 months, which if some remember made it kind of odd when the 'Inspired by Rory McIlroy' putter came out as he didn't just use one signature model but has bounced back and forth between a few.  So why can't any other brand make one that fits his eye as well?

The younger generation of players aren't the feel players like we've seen in the past in the game, they've become guys that say "Well what were the numbers on that shot?".  One of the few guys I can think of that doesn't fit into the new mold is Bubba Watson because of how much he works the ball.  Ping has had a real hard time getting his Ping S58's out of his hands over the past 4 years, but Rory McIlroy just doesn't fit that same description.


Bubba plays S59's

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#11 practicetee

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:58 PM

View PostMNoonan, on 30 October 2012 - 05:55 PM, said:

View Postpracticetee, on 30 October 2012 - 05:31 PM, said:

Sorry but the only real problem I see with a pro switching from one brand to another is the golf ball these days.  Product cycles are much shorter than they were 20 years ago and because of that   fact and the amount these endorsement contracts are worth there is a lot more pressure for pros to switch about half their bag every year.

You yourself say that Rory has switched just about every wood in his bag recently.  So what is there to say he can't do it again 3 months later?  And its not like the Diamana prototype he is playing is proprietary to Titleist.  I'm sure the Mitsubishi tour reps will be able to find another one just like it for him no matter where he ends up, or even get another one made to compensate for any more/less spin he is seeing from a new driver head.

While he has been loyal to Scotty Cameron, he has played quite a few different ones over the last 18 months, which if some remember made it kind of odd when the 'Inspired by Rory McIlroy' putter came out as he didn't just use one signature model but has bounced back and forth between a few.  So why can't any other brand make one that fits his eye as well?

The younger generation of players aren't the feel players like we've seen in the past in the game, they've become guys that say "Well what were the numbers on that shot?".  One of the few guys I can think of that doesn't fit into the new mold is Bubba Watson because of how much he works the ball.  Ping has had a real hard time getting his Ping S58's out of his hands over the past 4 years, but Rory McIlroy just doesn't fit that same description.


Bubba plays S59's

Good call, tack on another 2 years of Ping trying to get him to switch then!
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#12 Jc0

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:58 PM

5.  He just changed drivers.  It won't be that big of a move to a new one.

4.  Nike won't make him change fairways.  Tigers been using the same 5 wood for years.  Don't think they will care as long as its not a current model

3.  He gets a personal grinder to make his wedges.  There is no way he won't get what he wants.

2. Tiger didn't change from the cameron for years.  Don't think nike would make him change imidiatly

1. Nike has like 100 different prototypes for golf balls and they make custom protos for people.  He'll get a good a ball.

#13 pingman1

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:07 PM

No

#14 boulAAYYY

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:24 PM

A good player is a good player w/e he's using!
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#15 M3only

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:30 PM

So long as he doesn't have a Tiger-like scandal/fall, Rory will continue being dominant regardless of the equipment he plays.


#16 TheMoneyShot

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:34 PM

View Posttbowles411, on 30 October 2012 - 05:20 PM, said:

No.  :lock:

:D

+1

#17 HateTheHighDraw

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:54 PM

I enjoyed the read but feel that there are a lot of assumptions there.  Who knows what kind of deal hell strike with nike.  Maybe they'll let him keep his Scotty.  We just don't know.

#18 fairwayhunter31

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:57 PM

I think this kid could go out and win with one of our WRX'ers bags, so getting him down to (insert company and fitting facility) to get his new set-up should only enhance his game.

The ball won't be as big a change as most think... most guys switch and have a tough transition, I don't think he will.

He needs to sign this deal and get busy testing!
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#19 SundayBag

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:08 PM

i just hope he doesn't go with TMag. I'm tired of them buying young golfers. I know nike would be doing the same but at least they need him.
I know it won't happen, but how great would it be if he went with ping? he could use his driver, he couple play a milled, non grooved, non insert putter, titleist balls, and ping might finally come out with some blades :P

#20 Arizonalefty59

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:14 PM

It didn't hurt Tiger and Phil did it?


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#21 SHIVAN

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:16 PM

Think he will have to change golf balls?  Don't other staffers play whatever ball they sign to?

#22 Thrillhouse

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:16 PM

5- agree, that's a hurdle
4- if he doesn't like the Nike fairways he will use his old one
3- he will either have custom wedges made to his specs or he won't have to switch.
2- lots of Nike staffers don't use Nike putters, plus Nike will make him whatever he wants if he does want to switch, plus he's changed putters frequently in the past.
1- agreed, that's gonna be a hurdle

Most contracts require ten clubs, so that's driver, 3-pw, and one other club. He has some room to keep some old gear if he wants I'm sure.

#23 superman912

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:19 PM

5. Nike will give him any driver head he wants. MRC will make sure the D+ prototype he uses will be tweaked to exactly the same characteristics as his Titleist driver. He switched a bunch of times with success. From the 909 to the 910 to the 913D2 with Fuji TS and now the 913D3 with MRC D+ prototype. I think the only failure was the Fuji and that had to do with shaft not head.

4. He switched back and forth many times with his fairways, some days using the 906, 910, 2 iron 503i, and the 913. He won't have any trouble switching to Nike fairways. And fuji will do the same MRC will. And of all of their equipment, their fairways seem to be most consistent anyways (minus the blades).

3. Just like Tiger, he'll probably play endo forged blades with Nike badges that'll play identically to his Titleist blades. There was a rumor that Tiger is actually playing Miura's with Nike badges. I wouldn't be surprised if Rory gets unstamped Titleist blades with Nike badges on it that'll play like the 712 MBs but look like the new prototype Nike blades that are supposed to come out. Project x is not proprietary to Titleist so there'll be no problem getting iron shafts.  Nike can grind their VR pro wedges to play exactly like the Vokeys. Hell, I bet they'll go as far as getting Vokey blanks and stamping Nike VR pro on them. Wouldn't surprise me at all considering what Tiger got.

2. The putter will be where it counts. Who knows if he'll switch to a Nike putter. He might not, just like Tiger. I also have a suspicion that part of Tiger's new deal was that he was to use the Nike putter. I don't see why he'd drop the putter he's won 14 majors with for any other reason. I think Mcilroy will start with the same Scotty and Nike might try to sweeten the deal by making him switch putters. But just like Tiger, I can bet the rolling characteristics of his Nike will be exactly the same as his Scotty. You are comparing stock equipment to tour issue. These guys are playing nothing stock. Everything is fit perfectly for their game.

1. Tiger is probably playing a ProV1 badged as a Nike D ball, and it won't be any surprise if Rory also plays a ProV1x with a Nike logo on it. This is a very common practice on tour.

With Nike's resources, I can bet almost nothing will change with Rory's equipment except that it'll say Nike on it, rather than Titleist.

Edited by superman912, 30 October 2012 - 07:23 PM.


#24 H.A. Kerr

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:25 PM

Is this what's going to happen now? GolfWRX has multiple threads that play far beyond 'out' and then a few days later comes an authoritative(?) writeup that rehashes the same topics that have been properly and thoroughly hashed?

#25 jmvargas

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:31 PM

nope...he's too talented for that..

heck! he could play well with MY clubs!!

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#26 PZero

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:33 PM

View PostH.A. Kerr, on 30 October 2012 - 07:25 PM, said:

Is this what's going to happen now? GolfWRX has multiple threads that play far beyond 'out' and then a few days later comes an authoritative(?) writeup that rehashes the same topics that have been properly and thoroughly hashed?

I was just thinking the same thing. It's getting a little ridiculous, but don't blame GolfWRX. It's the same person rehashing the topic.

He's done it twice today. Earlier he used his article to link to a previous article he wrote, but completely ignored a thread that was created by a member here that started the rumor.

Edited by PZero, 30 October 2012 - 07:36 PM.

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#27 Cwing

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:34 PM


He just changed to the newer line and it had little, if any impact. His change to Nike wil also have little to no impact.
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#28 TheU

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:36 PM

I know this may come as a shock, but I think he will continue to play better and better.

#29 R Hagan

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 08:04 PM

View PostArizonalefty59, on 30 October 2012 - 07:14 PM, said:

It didn't hurt Tiger and Phil did it?

My thoughts exactly
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#30 KrazyTrain18

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 08:05 PM

Sad to see Rory go from Titleist, but good luck to him finding a great new deal.  All of these threads/replies are all specualtion, we will have to wait and see how he merges into the new brand.

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