McIlroy edging closer to Nike deal


Golf: Rory McIlroy is free to negotiate a new equipment deal after Acushnet (Titleist/Footjoy) confirmed today they will not be renewing their contract with world's number one golfer after this year. The Northern Irishman has been heavily linked with a lucrative move to Nike and this latest development would appear to edge him closer to that.

Sources consulted by The Irish Timesrecently insisted a move to Nike would become a reality when the Titleist/Footjoy deal expired.

Acushnet have supplied McIroy with Titleist and Footjoy equipment since he turned professional five years ago.

"Our goal has been to provide Rory with the best equipment and service that would help him be the best player he could possibly be," Acushnet chief executive Wally Uihlein said in a statement today. "He has been a great ambassador for the Titleist and FootJoy brands, and in turn, we are proud of how our equipment has contributed to his success. We wish Rory all the best, both personally and professionally, going forward."

McIlroy, who defeated world number two and and the face of Nike Tiger Woods in an 18-hole exhibition in China yesterday, thanked the Acushnet for "five very exciting and successful years."

He added: "I will always appreciate the contribution Titleist has made in helping me become the player I am today."

Nike have declined to comment on the speculation surrounding a deal with McIlroy and the Irishman was similarly reluctant to speak prior to his second place finish in the BMW Masters in Shanghai at the weekend.

“I’ll have my management company and everyone else on that side deal with endorsements and everything like that," he said last week. "I’m just here to concentrate on golf this week and I’ve got enough to think about trying to get that ball in the hole, so no further comment on that.”

The Holywood, Co Down, will sit out this weekend's HSBC Champions in China, before ending his European Tour season wtih the Singapore Open, the Hong Kong Open and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. By then he could well have topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is believed any Nike deal could be worth up to $250 million (€192m) over 10 years, which is similar to Woods’ current deal. When McIlroy won the US Open by an astonishing eight strokes last year there was speculation he could rival Woods on and off the course and earn $1 billion from the sport.

After his stellar 2012 season and last August’s eight-stroke victory in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island consolidated his position as the game’s undisputed number one, those predictions looked even more plausible.

The 23-year-old from Co Down is a sponsor’s dream and for Nike he would be a clean cut, globally popular star who might provide an antidote to the damage done by the Lance Armstrong doping scandal and the subsequent cancellation of his contract with the sports equipment manufacturer.

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