Rory McIlroy now among top 10 most valuable athletes in the world
Rory McIlroy has been catapulted into the top 10 most valuable athletes in the world - beating Argentina footballing legend Lionel Messi.
The Co Down star joins two other golfers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, in the list, which also includes Tennis player Roger Federer and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
According to a study carried out by American business magazine Forbes, the Holywood golfer is the ninth highest paid athlete in the world and has earned more this year than undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Instead of looking at the wealthiest athletes, Forbes decided to use a different methodology to calculate who has made the top 10 this year.
It explained that an athlete's brand values are the amount by which endorsement income exceeds the average endorsement income earned by the top 10 earning athletes in the same sport during the past year.
Despite suffering an ankle injury while enjoying a game of football with his friends and missing out on a number of competitions, Rory raked in over £7.8m this year alone from his winnings and endorsements.
Sitting behind him is Mayweather Jr, the undefeated boxing champion who signed several lucrative endorsements before his July showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
Barcelona forward Messi is no longer among the top 10 most valuable athletes.
The Argentinian occupied ninth position in 2014 with an estimated worth of £7.8m - a drop of £1m from the previous year - but does not feature at all in the top 10 for 2015.
Woods is once more the world's most valuable athlete with estimated worth of £19.5m, a £3.9m dip on his 2014 estimation, taking the place of NBA star LeBron James (£17.5m), who now moves to third. McIlroy, who is the former world number one golfer, has been on a huge roll with five PGA victories, including two Majors, over the last 12 months. The wins helped him earn £10.6 million in prize money, as well as valuable bonuses from his chief sponsor, Nike.
McIlroy replaced Woods as the face of the Electronic Arts golf video game after the American served as the name on the game for 16 versions between 1998 and 2013.
This year's version will be Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, while other partners include Omega, Bose and Upper Deck.
McIlroy settled a messy lawsuit in February this year with his former agents who accused the golfer of owing millions of dollars in commissions from endorsement contracts and prize money.
10 most valuable athletes of 2015:
1. Tiger Woods, £19.5m
2. Phil Mickelson, £18.2m
3. LeBron James, £17.5m
4. Roger Federer, £17.5m
5. MS Dhoni, £13.7m
6. Usain Bolt, £11.7m
7. Kevin Durant, £11.7m
8. Cristiano Ronaldo, £10.4m
9. Rory McIlroy, £7.8m
10. Floyd Mayweather £7.5m