Financial sky the limit now for golf’s global poster boy, Rory McIlroy

Irishman poised to rival Tiger Woods as the most famous golfer in the world

Rory McIlroy Inc, effectively the player himself, has made its mark in creating a brand awareness that is identifiable beyond the golf course!

In a golfing world where the two dominant figures of the past two decades – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – are waning in their powers and impact, the space has opened up for the 25-year-old Northern Irishman to step into a corporate market which generates greater financial dividends than anything earned on the golf course.

More than that, golf’s corporate backers have been desperately looking for someone to be the global poster boy. McIlroy, more than anyone, has put his hand up to be that man.

In effect, the sky is the limit for McIlroy: he is the first European golfer to win three legs of the Grand Slam, which puts him into a league of his own on that front; and only Americans Jack Nicklaus, who was 23, and Woods, who was 24, have reached that three-quarter mark quicker.


Highest paid

Plus, he has the X-Factor, with a life away from the golf course that is anything but dull and boring. That’s marketability.

McIlroy is already one of the highest paid golfers in the world. His deal with Nike – a multi-year sponsorship believed to be worth in the region of $20 million annually – is one of the biggest in sport.

He also has other corporate sponsors in Santander, the Spanish banking giant, Omega, the Swiss watch manufacturer, and Bose, a US-based company who specialise in audio equipment.

In terms of appearance money, which is available in the Far Eastern marketplace, only Woods and Mickelson currently have more pulling power. That will change.

As it is, McIlroy can expect $1 million in appearance fees for teeing up in China and South Korea, which he included on his late-season travelling itinerary last year.

Forbes magazine last year estimated McIlroy's earnings at $24.3 million for 2013, placing him 35th in the world's highest paid athletes league.

McIlroy's win in Hoylake will come as vindication for the player in switching clubs to Nike after moving from Titleist when the all-in deal to use their clubs and become a clotheshorse for the company's clothing was made.

It will also serve as considerable payback for Nike Golf in the company’s endorsement of McIlroy as their new man.

McIlroy not only wears the same Nike clothing as Woods, but he has emerged as the player most likely to succeed him as golf’s megastar with all of the financial windfalls that entails.

Hugely significant

Whilst earnings off the golf course equate to a 5:1 ratio to what is taken in prizemoney, nonetheless McIlroy’s on course earnings are also hugely significant.

The win at Hoylake reaped him €1.23 million and moved him over the €19 million mark in career money earnings on the PGA European Tour since he joined the tour in late-2007.

In truth, it is a win-win situation and especially so when lifting tournament trophies, as he has quite spectacularly started to do again in the past six weeks.

From a stage where McIlroy had never won a professional tournament on European soil, McIlroy has now bagged the two biggest events – the BMW PGA Championship and the British Open – in quick succession.

He is in line to return to the world number one spot – a position he last held in March 2013 – in the coming weeks. Yet, you suspect, the prize of another Major, at the US PGA, would be more important than the world rankings. It’s all about the Majors.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times