Friday 20 April 2018

McIlroy deflects questions on possible megabucks deal with Nike

Rory McIlroy plays table tennis during a promotional event at the BMW Masters 2012 golf tournament in Shanghai. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy plays table tennis during a promotional event at the BMW Masters 2012 golf tournament in Shanghai. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Garrod

WITH four of the world's top five and 11 of Europe's Ryder Cup heroes in action, there is no shortage of star quality on show in this week's BMW Masters at Lake Malaren in Shanghai.

But while Ian Poulter and the rest are only too happy to keep talking about their incredible comeback in Chicago, there was one topic of conversation Rory McIlroy did not want to dwell on during the tournament build-up.

When asked about rumours of a forthcoming switch from Titleist to Nike - there has even been mention of a 10-year deal worth a staggering $250m - the world number one chose to play a dead bat.

"I'll have my management company and everyone else on that side deal with endorsements and everything like that," McIlroy said.

"I'm just here to concentrate on golf this week and I've got enough to think about trying to get that ball in the hole, so no further comment on that."

As for whether he had the ambition to surpass Tiger Woods in terms of business performance the 23-year-old replied: "I'm just doing what I'm doing - I'm playing golf and enjoying my life.

"If that makes me more marketable, then that's great, but I'm just doing what I'm doing and enjoying it."

McIlroy has not only ascended to the top of the world rankings this season, but also grabbed his second major and won the PGA Tour money list.

Last year Luke Donald achieved an unprecedented PGA and European Tour double, but the young Northern Irishman is on course to match him.

He currently holds a lead of more than £353,000 over Justin Rose, but with a first prize this week in excess of £720,000 and four more weeks still to come the race is far from over.

"It's very important," he added. "That's the one last big goal of the year. I'll be giving it my all this week and trying to get another win."

He plays the opening round with Rose and also Lee Westwood, who even at 12th on the money list could yet deny his former stablemate just as he did three years ago.

McIlroy has the advantage of a win on the course last year. It was not a European Tour event then, but it did have a record first prize of £1.2million and he beat American Anthony Kim in a play-off.

"I've got great memories. It's a great lay-out and it's a long course - you've got to hit it well off the tee."

Poulter is playing for the first time since his magnificent Ryder Cup performance where he claimed four wins out of four, including the five-birdie closing stretch alongside McIlroy in the Saturday fourballs that played such a part in turning the match around the following day.

"Obviously it's very special - that Sunday will go down in history," Poulter said. "To get us all back together again - all but one (Sergio Garcia) - is great.

"I haven't won yet this year, so hopefully I can do so over the next few weeks and I'd love to knock this one off.

"I think most guys have had to sit back and have a little think of what just happened. It did happen, we did win, it was pretty special."

The 78-strong field includes 12 Chinese players, Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal and also South African Branden Grace, who after his fifth win of the year at the Dunhill Links Championship could go top of the money list with another victory.

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