At the start of the week in which Rory McIlroy hopes to gain immortality, he has earned himself an estimated $100 million (£80 million) by signing an extension to his Nike contract.
The deal is for 10 years and, as Nike has stopped making clubs and balls, it allows McIlroy’s team to negotiate with equipment companies, which would inevitably mean his income rising still further.
At the moment, McIlroy is using Callaway drivers and irons, Titleist wedges and ball and a Scotty Cameron putter. Each would obviously like the world No 2 to endorse their products. However, without a logo on his cap or clothes these could be difficult arrangements.
There were none of the pyrotechnics which greeted McIlroy to the Nike ‘family’ in 2013. An initial five-year deal was reported to be worth $20 million – including all equipment and head-to-toe branding – with the option of another five years.
But last August, Nike announced they were quitting manufacturing equipment in a competitive marketplace in which it only managed to secure nine per cent share despite the patronage of Tiger Woods and McIlroy.
Nike insisted it would remain in the apparel business, and after the signing of Jason Day, the world No 3, in February, this was further emphatic proof. The company released a short statement in which McIlroy said: “I’ve loved this company since I was a kid. I’m really happy to continue this journey with Nike.”
The 27-year-old, who has been named by Golf Digest as the highest-earning figure in golf, with an annual off-course income of $32 million, would watch his worth soar if he won the Masters this week and became only the sixth player in history to complete the grand slam.
However, the money would mean little compared to the honour of donning the green jacket of which he has always dreamed. McIlroy is marrying his fiancée, Erica Stoll, in the weeks after the season’s first major, but he feels he requires a Masters title if he is to be completely “fulfilled”.
“I’d love to give you an answer and say my life is already fulfilled, with everything that’s happened, and everything that’s going to happen in the future, by starting a family and all that,” McIlroy told ESPN. “But if I didn’t have a green jacket, there’d be a tiny piece that would just be missing. It really would be. And yeah, I’d be lying if I said, as a person... I wouldn’t be fulfilled if I didn’t get it.
“I said when I was eight years old that I wanted to be the best golfer in the world and I wanted to win all the majors. I’ve nearly done all of that. There’s one piece of the puzzle that’s missing.”
Meanwhile, at the Shell Houston Open, Russell Henley secured himself the last Augusta berth with a three-shot victory over Sung Kang. The American overhauled the South Korean with a final-round 65 for a 20-under total. Rickie Fowler finished in a tie for third with countryman Luke List on 16 under.