It’s crazy money, but Rory McIlroy won't change, say pals
Rory McIlroy's eye-watering wealth will not change him, said friends who knew him at a time when every penny counted.
“He has all the money he needs, but it's not the money any more. It's about winning majors and staying the world's No.1,” said his uncle Colm. “He'll just be the same Rory.”
His new multi-year sponsorship deal with sports manufacturer Nike, reportedly worth £150m, means he becomes one of the richest sportsmen on the planet, but just a few years ago his parents worked all hours to pay for their only child's golf — Gerry as a barman with two jobs and mother Rosie on night shift at a factory making masking tape.
His father also swept the changing room floors of a nearby sports club to make ends meet. They still live in Holywood, Co Down, but apart from the occasional visit, it is unlikely Rory will return for any length of time.
Home now is a luxury pad he bought before Christmas at West Palm Beach, Florida, which he shares with his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
His decision to switch sponsors was on the cards for months.
Friends claimed he has been practising with his new clubs since the day after Europe triumphed over the US in the Ryder Cup at Medinah last September. But no matter what he carries in his bag — or in his bank balance — Rory will be the same Rory, said Stephen Crooks (23), head professional at Holywood. His game will not change either, no matter the equipment.
He said: “The first four or five years on the tour hasn't changed him. I doubt very much if the clubs will. The money won't.”
He added: “The last time he was in Holywood he helped raise £60,000 for the club, which is into the next stage of major refurbishment, including a new professional shop for myself. That's the sort of impact he has made. It happens everywhere he goes.”
His dad was club barman and when not there, was pulling pints at the CIYMS in east Belfast where he was also in charge of the changing rooms.
Rory's uncle Colm (49), who runs a power hosing business, said his parents sacrificed everything for their son who hasn't forgotten where he came from.
Or those he grew up with.
Colm's son Fergus (14) got a set of specially adapted clubs from his cousin at Christmas 2011.
He said: “The money he is earning is crazy, but Rory is not about money.”
Does he envisage a day when Rory might go a step further?
Colm said: “I met Caroline for the first time at Royal Portrush. Rory is very, very fond of her, but I wouldn't know where the relationship goes from here. Both of them seem deeply dippy.”
Factfile: Sport's top 5 earners
The list Rory will join — top earning sports stars of 2012:
1. Floyd Mayweather
Total earnings: £53m
2. Manny Pacquaio
Total earnings: £39m
3. Tiger Woods
Total earnings: £37m
4. Lebron James
Total earnings: £32.8m
5. Roger Federer
Total earnings: £32.5m