Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Jack Magowan: McIlroy on sure path to riches

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Officially, Rory McIlroy has won more than £1.5 million in only 18 months of plundering the world's richest fairways.

Being golf's youngest and brightest torch-bearer, however, demands more than just playing the game to perfection. It means knowing how to think positively, what endorsement deals to sign, what interviews to engage in, and how to avoid the fatigue that comes from playing in too many tournaments.

For a toweringly talented McIlroy, Dubai was the gift that will only keep giving.

Forget the £285,000 that made this maiden victory so satisfying. It could be small change compared to what he's about to earn off the course from all those juicy extras the game now offers in abundance.

Nobody is on a par with a sidelined Tiger Woods, whose $99 million in 2007 was the most ever banked by a sporting superstar in one year. While still a teenager, however, McIlroy is already pulling the tail of a lucrative cash cow.

Dubai's Jumeirah Hotel and Beach Resort couldn't have asked for better mileage than it got as the cameras zoned in on Rory's golf cap on all four days there, and the personable Holywood lad has rewarding ties, too, with Titleist and a top clothing company.

All of which, and more, promises to enhance his earning power, but there's a flip side to every coin. Not all the figures you see swell Rory's bank account. Not with expenses as high as they are. Like for hotels and air travel; caddy's allowance and cut from winnings; agent's fee and state taxes; plus entry fees to nearly 30 big tournaments this year, both in Europe and the US.

It will all add up, some say, in excess of £200,000.

It's 20 years since Curtis Strange, twice US Open champion, broke the mould as the first golfer to win $1 million in a season. Then in 1994, Colin Montgomerie passed the euro million barrier for the first time, but had to wait another five years to reach it in £'s.

Back then, official money spanning 41 European Tour events topped £40 million. Now, the money-pot is brimful at £90m, not counting that bonus pool of £10m from the end-of-season Race to Dubai Classic.

Most of the game's top brass now carry an agent in their bag, and Chubby Chandler has been looking after McIlroy like a mother hen.

All Rory has to worry about is shooting birdies. Chubby's team does everything else for him. Travel, hotel bookings, accounting, investments.... they're all taken care of in the same way it has been for Darren Clarke since he helped launch Chandler's new career in sports management 20 years ago.

Clarke must have liked the sound of "a business to be built around trust", for some time elapsed before the pair sealed their agreement in writing.

Heavyweight Chandler is said to have taken 5 per cent of Clarke's winnings, a modest return, as the majority of America's top players would testify. There, agent's fees start at 20 per cent from endorsements alone, with the Tiger paying less, much less, because of the mammoth off-course income he generates. Like $87 million in 2007, or $600m in all over the 10-year spell he has been world golf's No.1.

Caddies in the US are handsomely rewarded as well at the rate of $1,000 a week fixed, plus 5% if their player makes the cut, and 10% should he win the tournament. JP Fitzgerald is Rory's tour caddy, and will shoulder his bag in all 10 American tournaments in which he now aims to play, the Masters and US Open among them.

Good young golfers are ten-a-penny these days, but to find one better than good is still a rarity, and McIlroy falls into this category. Not only on the course, but off it as well.

Everybody loves a winner, and for a blushing 19-year-old, this was a week in which TV and Press hysteria reached a new and sometimes embarrassing pitch. It doesn't lighten the weight of expectation, or pressure, to compare whiz-kid Rory to the Tiger, but he handled it beautifully, patient and unflappable at a post-victory reception that lasted all of 90 minutes. His temperament is as sound as his swing.

Take a roll-call of Ireland's all-time golfing greats, amateur and professional, and McIlroy already ranks high among them. If he ever goes public, be sure to buy stock in his future.

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