Graeme McDowell is on course to become Ulster’s richest-ever sportsman after his stellar year which climaxed with a US Open triumph and Ryder Cup glory.
The 31-year-old Portrush golfer, awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List, has signed three lucrative new sponsorship deals that will earn him an estimated £1m a month.
The new endorsement deals come at the end of a year which saw McDowell move into the sporting superstar bracket thanks to his Ryder Cup heroics — his putt clinching victory for Europe against America — and US Open success at Pebble Beach.
‘G-Mac’ also won a play-off against Tiger Woods in the Chevron World Challenge in California last month and earlier in the year laid the foundations for the Ryder Cup win when he secured the Wales Open at Celtic Manor, also the venue for Europe’s clash with the Americans.
McDowell is now up to fifth in the latest world rankings — the highest position ever for a Northern Ireland player — and competes in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the traditional season-opener on the US Tour, at the Kapalua resort in Hawaii, starting from tomorrow.
McDowell is the highest ranked player in the 34-man tournament, which has no cut.
The Ulsterman’s worldwide success over the past 12 months make him an obvious target for the major sponsors given his global marketability.
McDowell will make his seasonal debut in Hawaii tomorrow as the new face of golf equipment company Srixon, replacing Jim Furyk — the US Tour’s player of the year — who has moved to TaylorMade. The multi-year deal is worth a reputed €2.25 million annually to McDowell, who was a Callaway player when he won the US Open last June.
McDowell has also signed deals with Mastercard and shoe manufacturer Ecco.
He has existing arrangements with Swiss watch manufacturer Audemars Piquet, Middle East business empire Al Naboodah, Dublin tailor Louis Copeland and private jets company Marquis Jet.
But despite the megadeals McDowell is determined to keep his feet on the ground.
He said: “It’s important I re-adust my focus and take the positives and confidence out of this year and pour it back into next season.”
McDowell spent Christmas at home in Portrush, re-charging the batteries for a crack at the US Tour.
Lining up against McDowell in the Tournament of Champions tomorrow will be Hunter Mahan, whom G-Mac beat in the singles to secure Europe’s Ryder Cup victory. McDowell has also retained membership of the European Tour. His fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, whose win at Quail Hollow last year earned him a place in the Hawaii field, has decided to wait until the Abu Dhabi HSBC tournament on January 20 before making his competitive return.
Four other big earners
Tony McCoy: The 15-times Champion jockey can name his price when it comes to securing the main rides. His partnership with the Irish multimillionaire JP McManus is the ‘dream’ ticket and the Moneyglass man’s raised profile since winning Sports Personality of the Year is sure to open more doors.
Career earnings: £12m
Darren Clarke: While he may not be the force he once was on the course, off it he continues to be a big draw. Barclays Capital, TaylorMade and Dunlop are his main backers as well as his outside business interests.
Career earnings: £6.5m
Rory McIlroy: He may not have had the major success of fellow Ulsterman McDowell but the Holywood youngster is a major draw for sponsors. He can count golf giants Titleist and Footjoy in his portfolio and also has deals with Dubai-based hospitality company Jumeirah and the Lough Erne Resort.
Career earnings: £5.3m
Jonny Evans: It’s a far cry from Newtownabbey to Old Trafford but that move has netted defender Evans the dream of all young footballers. Signed a lucrative seven-figure four-year deal with Manchester United last season.
Career earnings: £3m