Tiger Woods might be making a comeback, but he will have a difficult time bettering Rory McIlroy, the man who took his place as golf’s biggest name.
He matched Woods’ feat of winning three major titles by the age of 25 and has since added a fourth to his collection. His success has propelled him to the top of the sport and helped make him a household name.
Unsurprisingly, that status comes with financial rewards. According to Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, McIlroy is the sixth highest earner in sport, sitting ahead of fellow golfers such as Phil Mickelson (12th), Tiger Woods (17th) and Jordan Spieth (21st).
Verdict looks back at McIlroy’s rise to the top of golf and the riches that came with it.
Rory McIlroy career highlights: Five big events that took the golfer to the top
US Open victory
McIlroy claimed his first major victory at the 2011 U.S. Open in style, setting a total of 11 tournament records in the process, including the record for most strokes under par with -16. Aged 22, McIlroy became the youngest Open winner since 1923. This victory put him on track to replace Tiger Woods as golf’s biggest star.
World Number One
McIlroy followed up his success at the US Open by winning the UBS Hong Kong Open on the Europe Tour and the Honda Classic in March 2012. This saw the emerging star climb into the World Number One spot. Despite losing his place to Luke Donald after two weeks, he regained it three more times in 2012. He went on to hold it for 32 weeks between August 2012 and March 2013.
PGA Tour Player of the Year
Unsurprisingly, McIlroy was handed the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, completing what had been an incredible rise to the top. McIlroy became the youngest player since Tiger Woods to win the award. The Northern Irishman was given the title as a result of his five wins in 24 tournaments throughout the season. He also secured four other second place finishes.
$125 million NIKE deal
McIlroy signed the biggest deal of his career the next month, as Nike looked to tie-up the future of golf. The deal, worth $25 million a year for a decade according to Sportcal, was bigger than the ten-year deal that the sportswear company handed to former star golfer Woods. This put him just behind stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James, who earn $30 million a year from the brand.
$24 million EA Sports deal
Golf completed its changing of the guard in 2015, as McIlroy replaced Woods as the face of EA Sports’ PGA Tour video game series. Tiger Woods PGA Tour, the last of which was released in 2013, became Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, which was released in July 2015. Despite mixed reviews, McIlroy received $6 million annually for at least four years. EA currently has no plans to release a new title, so it is unclear whether this deal will be extended.
Rory McIlroy sponsorship deals
Since breaking into golf’s elite, McIlroy’s annual earnings from the sport have stayed largely consistent.
Professional tour golfers are paid a percentage of the tournament purse depending on where they finish on the leaderboard. As one of the best in the sport, McIlroy consistently tends to finish near the top. However, there are only so many tournaments that he can play in, so there is little chance of this revenue stream increasing.
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However, endorsement and sponsorship deals have been far more lucrative for the golfer. In 2012, when he first became golf’s top rank, McIlroy earned $7 million from sponsorship deals according to Forbes’ annual World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list. However, having attracted the likes of Nike and EA Sports, he has been earning upwards of $30 million a year since 2015.
According to Sportcal, McIlroy has signed eight sponsorship deals in his time. The first of those was with Santander in 2011, which saw the golfer star in the British bank’s adverts. While unconfirmed, reports suggest that McIlroy received more than $1.5 million to endorse the bank.
He followed this up by signing a deal with trading card company Upper Deck in 2012.
2013 was his best year. As a result of his recent successes in the sport, he landed that $125 million deal with Nike. He also signed smaller deals with watchmaker Omega, worth $8 million+ annually, and audio equipment brand Bose.
The EA Sports deal came in 2015, which took his endorsement earnings above $30 million a year.
In 2017, McIlroy agreed to a new deal with Nike. This saw his earnings from the brand drop by $15 million a year to $10 million. This was due to the fact that Nike had stopped manufacturing golf clubs and balls and therefore no longer required McIlroy’s endorsement.
However, this meant that he could negotiate a new deal with a rival equipment manufacturer. He chose TaylorMade, a sports brand owned by adidas, which will earn him an additional $10 million annually until 2026.
Rory McIlroy net worth
Rory McIlroy has been named the UK’s wealthiest athlete aged under-30 by the Sunday Times. This puts him ahead of fellow athletes such as tennis star Andy Murray and Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale.
The golf star earned £28 million in the past year, which, according to the British newspaper, took his total net worth to £110 million.
However, other publications suggest that McIlroy’s earnings and worth are far higher. Forbes estimates that the golfer earned $50 million (approximately £27.3 million) in 2017.
Likewise, according to the Irish Examiner, which claims to have seen documents filed by McIlroy’s management company, the McIlroy brand is worth $422.1 million.