Rory is on course to join Tiger in billionaire club
'Sky's limit' as new star cracks key US market
Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00
RORY McIlroy could become the biggest earner in the history of European sport.
As he tapped in the final putt of his record-breaking US Open victory on Sunday, McIlroy was being tipped to succeeded Tiger Woods as the new poster boy for world golf.
Conservative estimates place the 22-year-old's earnings over the next 10 years at €100m-plus. But PR guru Max Clifford said "the sky is the limit" for McIlroy, who broke all records at the US Open.
If, as expected, the US Open becomes the first of many victories at golf's Majors, experts say he could even become the first dollar billionaire in European sport.
McIlroy not only has the golf game to challenge Tiger Woods. With his youthful charm, outgoing nature and a squeaky-clean, boy-next-door image, McIlroy is the perfect antidote to the badly tarnished Tiger.
And few sponsorship markets are as lucrative as professional golf, as Woods proved by becoming sport's first dollar billionaire.
That's the threshold McIlroy could break if he fully delivers on the golfing potential which Padraig Harrington believes can make his young fellow Irishman the first player to surpass the record 18 Major titles won by Jack Nicklaus.
McIlroy's earning power was already pretty high before last weekend. For example, he ranked in the top-20 of 'Golf Digest' magazine's prestigious list of golf's biggest earners in 2010, with $8.184m (€5.72m) banked.
An estimated $2.57m (€1.79m) of that figure came from sponsorship and endorsement contracts and this is the area that his income is expected to rocket now that he's established himself as a favourite with the US public.
US sports crowds are notoriously tough to crack for foreigners but the 35,000-strong galleries at Congressional last weekend roared McIlroy all the way to victory.
If he first won their hearts with his courageous and dignified response to last April's nightmarish meltdown at the US Masters, he electrified them with the magic in his swing in Washington DC.
"I think he's a pretty good figurehead for the game right now with a load of good young players coming behind him," beamed Chubby Chandler, McIlroy's agent at International Sports Management.
McIlroy's sponsors include Dubai's Jumeirah Hotel and Resort Group, Titleist golf equipment, EA Sports computer games, Footjoy golf shoes, Oakley clothing, Lough Erne Resort and Audemars Piguet watches.
Though figures were not mentioned, McIlroy's win at the US Open will bring a cash windfall from his sponsors that will dwarf the $1.44m (€1m) prize he picked up on Sunday.
Nigel Currie of sports marketing agency Brand Rapport said: "Rory McIlroy has the potential to do what Federer, Schumacher and Woods have done.
"Golf, motor-racing and tennis are the big earning sports and if he was to dominate golf for a number of years, he could get towards the one billion-dollar mark."