McIlroy Set To Join Woods At Nike In 2013?

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Rumours are rife at the moment that world number one and current Titleist staffer Rory McIlroy could step onto the first tee at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January as a Nike player.

The Northern Irishman’s contract with Titleist finishes at the end of the 2012 season, and as of such the race has begun to secure his signature.

Nike are rumoured to lead the way, with a 10-year £155 million contract reported to be under negotiation, but they will face tough competition from the likes of TalorMade-adidas and his current brand Titleist, who will do all they can to try and keep him.

Of the rumours, McIlroy said: "I have my management company deal with endorsements and everything like that. 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.”

Later, he added, "These rumors have been going around for years, and it seems to always come up at this time of year. Even if I didn’t have one sponsor, I’d still make a great living because the prize money is so big.

"I’ve never been motivated by money. All the business stuff will work itself out. What I want is more trophies.”

His management company, Horizon Sports Management, also moved to slow down the rumours. Conor Ridge, who recently successfully negotiated a move from Titleist to Nike for McIlroy’s stablemate Ross Fisher, said: “I hadn’t even heard it, to be honest. He’s a Titleist player and there is no way I am going to make any comment on anything like that.”

The 23-year-old has used Titleist clubs since turning professional, and is the dream endorser, always putting new clubs into play and winning global tournaments.

In fact, last year Reucom, a brand analysis research firm, reported that McIlroy drew in a collective £10 million for his sponsors, which include Jumeirah, Oakley, FootJoy, and Titleist.

Yet TaylorMade-adidas' massive growth in recent years makes them a viable alternative to the Acushnet company, with McIlroy's girlfriend - tennis superstar Caroline Wozniacki - already signed-up as an adidas ambassador.

While Nike - who Forbes magazine value at over £9 billion -  also have the financial clout to offer McIlroy an irresistible deal.

The double major winner would join Tiger Woods as Nike’s headline golf star, as the two seem to grow closer every year, in both their friendship and achievements. 

The move would seem like a logical fit as Nike always aggressively court the most dominant player in every sport, while there is also a historical precedent of golf’s biggest names moving from Titleist at the height of their marketability, including Woods in 2002, and Phil Mickelson to Callaway after winning his first Masters in 2004.