Sport Golf

Thursday 18 September 2014

Dazzling deal has McIlroy at dangerous crossroads

Oliver Brown

Published 01/11/2012 | 05:00

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Rory McIlroy is on the brink of becoming one of the top earners in world sport.

Doubtless you have heard the Aesopic tale of the dog and its reflection.

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The story is beguilingly simple: a dog bearing a bone glances down and spots its own reflection in the water.

Mistaking it for another animal carrying something more desirable, it opens its mouth to bark and thus drops what it was carrying, its lost bone never to be retrieved again.

Staying in this realm of the figurative, we see that Rory McIlroy stands, perhaps, at this very water crossing.

What he clutches are his golf clubs, the indispensable tools of his lucrative trade. But as he reaches the stream his eyes discern another set of clubs, all of them stamped with a tick-shaped logo.

And in that fleeting moment of covetousness, that cry of "I want some of those!", he falters, dropping his own precious implements and watching them sink into the murky depths.

Fable or fact? The coming days will tell us, as McIlroy considers whether to join Tiger Woods as a global mannequin for brand Nike.

Monetarily, the deal makes perfect sense, yielding an extra £10m in exchange for a few more tick-marks on his equipment. But as the Ancient Greeks warned us, the naked pursuit of material gain has always been strewn with pitfalls.

In envying the possessions of Woods, young Rory risks compromising the commodity most precious: namely, his talent. Nick Faldo, quite possibly a latter-day Aesop himself, is in no doubt.

"I call it dangerous," he argued. "I've changed clubs and changed equipment and every manufacturer will say, 'we can copy your clubs, we can tweak the ball so it fits you'.

"But there's feel and sound, and there's confidence. You can't put a real value on that. It is priceless."

Alas, for everything in McIlroy's world there is, increasingly, a price.

Simply ensuring that he turns up involves a fee of over £600,000, as organisers of this week's 'Duel at Jinsha Lake', a confected exhibition match between McIlroy and Woods, discovered.

It was some appearance fee, given that the local miners in Zhengzhou, his host city in northern China, would be fortunate to earn more than £1,000 in a year. The reported rationale -- that the world's two best golfers were there to "promote" the game across China -- was frankly offensive.

This was no exercise in altruism; merely an excuse to jet off with vast sacks of greenbacks.

Unfortunately, McIlroy then compounded the error. Having collected his loot, he proceeded to abandon the HSBC Champions event that starts today in Shenzhen.

A bold move indeed, given that the tournament is a World Golf Championship event and offers one of the top 10 most prestigious titles on the calendar.

What could be the excuse for the absence? Tropical illness, maybe? No, apparently, the 23-year-old wants to be with his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, and is crossing six time zones to watch her compete in Bulgaria.

If you tried to pull off that trick at school, you would be accused of playing truant.

What McIlroy forgets, in his rush to spend a romantic mini-break in Sofia, is that without backers of the might of HSBC, the lifestyle he so conspicuously enjoys would dwindle and die. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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