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Rory McIlroy's laughing all the way to bank

World's top golfer McIlroy signs deal with sports giant

By Karl MacGinty

Rory McIlroy's received a James Bond-style welcome to the richest 'family' in world sport as Nike unveiled the $200m, 10-year sponsorship deal which makes the Holywood star the wealthiest Irish athlete in history.

Nike chose the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi for yesterday's lavish coronation of Ulster's sporting sheikh, who now lies behind only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the list of golf's biggest earners.

Video messages from Manchester United icon Wayne Rooney, Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer and, of course, Woods, were played as McIlroy joined a host of sporting megastars in the Nike stable.

Details of his new contract were not disclosed but it's understood to be worth a basic $13m per annum with performance bonuses and royalties on a special line of McIlroy apparel expected to boost that figure to more than $20m each year.

McIlroy laughed when he was asked if he felt rich beyond his wildest dreams, replying: "I don't play golf for the money. I think I'm well past that.

"I'm a Major champion, which I've always dreamed of being," he went on. "I'm World No 1, which I've always dreamed of being, I feel this is a company that can help me sustain that and win more Majors. I don't play for money, I play for titles."

McIlroy earned €11.9m on the golf course last year as he won five times around the world, including his second Major championship at August's US PGA Championship, boosting his career prize money to €26m in five years as a professional.

However, the Nike endorsement deal, which requires him to use Nike golf clubs, ball, footwear, apparel, gloves and accessories will propel the youngster well inside the Top 20 earners in global sport.

Yet the Northern Ireland man said he was most excited about joining Nike's elite stable.

"First and foremost, I have always associated Nike with the best," he said. "When I was growing up watching athletes on TV, all the best were in Nike. Now I've an opportunity to become one of those athletes, I'm very excited."

McIlroy and Woods will lead a powerful team of top class professionals at Nike Golf, their joint role underscored by an amusing TV advert featuring both which will be screened globally from today.

Nike Golf President Cindy Davis declined to say if there are any 'good behaviour' clauses in McIlroy's contract after the well publicised problems with the likes of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods.

Belfast Telegraph


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