Mega Bucks McIlroy tipped to cope with the pressure

World number one Rory McIlroy models his new Nike gear after signing a lucrative sponsorship deal with the sports brand this week
World number one Rory McIlroy models his new Nike gear after signing a lucrative sponsorship deal with the sports brand this week
Scott Gregory

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Rory McIlroy has been tipped to cope with the pressure his mega-bucks deal with Nike will bring.

The world number one signed a five-year deal with the sports giants worth a staggering sum of money earlier this week.

Depending on who you believe, the deal could be worth as much as £156m over the next decade, while even the most conservative estimates put the figures at around £60m over the next five years.

Some have already suggested McIlroy’s competitive edge is bound to be affected, knowing he is already set up for life.

But Lee-on-the-Solent’s former Ryder Cup star Steve Richardson – once hot property on the European Tour and the subject of lucrative endorsements and sponsorships – believes McIlroy will be spurred on.

Richardson explained: ‘It’s an incredible amount of money, really. But even before he signed this deal, it wasn’t as if he needed the money.

‘These boys at the top earn amazing amounts of money anyway. He will just be driven by winning majors and the big tournaments.

‘It is in you. You are that competitive as a youngster to try to be the best that you don’t suddenly stop. He will never lose that.

‘So I think these deals tend to make people play better.

‘There will be a little bit of extra pressure on him now.

‘He’ll be wanting to show to people that he can win with any clubs.

‘He doesn’t seem to feel pressure, though. He is the most free-flowing golfer I have ever seen.’

With the popular Northern Irishman agreeing to play with Nike equipment, Richardson believes it could take time to make the adjustment.

‘The new equipment may play a part because it will be a fraction different,’ said Richardson.

‘He has played brilliantly with Titleist equipment and has won two majors.

‘But golf is so scientific now they can make his clubs to suit him perfectly.

‘I had some good deals back in the day. I had a contract with Maxfli, then a three-year deal with Ben Sayers and Head clothing.

‘A lot of my deals were performance-based and I would imagine that there are similar tie-ins for Rory.

‘So I’m sure he would get bonuses for winning majors or remaining world number one and that kind of thing.

‘I had a management company who negotiated my deals for me and they would then come to me with the offers.

‘It didn’t matter to me which brand it was. But I really liked those Ben Sayers irons at the time.

‘I used Maxfli clubs for two years and I tried them out again quite recently.

‘All the modern equipment is so much better these days.

‘The clubs from 10 or 15 years ago don’t feel so good any more!

‘I used to change my clubs every year anyway.

‘Pros are always using new irons, new wedges or a new three wood, so some might make too much of an issue about it.’

Richardson did, however, warn of some of his contemporaries who failed to live up to their lucrative sponsorships.

He recalled: ‘It does happen when young guys get a lucrative deal before they have proven themselves on Tour.

‘I remember Gordon Sherry did well in the amateur ranks.

‘He got a fantastic deal when he turned pro and it never quite happened for him.

‘The difference with Rory is that he is the world number one.

‘Nike is a powerful brand and he’s probably thinking that can take him on to another level.

‘The test will be if it affects his motivation at all as he gets older.

‘But I don’t see that as a problem at the moment. He’s got a great attitude.

‘He is an amazing talent and will win many more titles.’