5:24pm Monday 14th January 2013
© Press Association 2014
Rory McIlroy insisted major titles matter more than money after taking a massive step towards becoming one of the biggest earners in sporting history.
McIlroy has signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with Nike and although details of the deal were not revealed, it has been widely reported to be a 10-year contract worth as much as £150million if the world number one, previously with Titleist, goes on winning majors.
And McIlroy is firmly focused on quickly adding to his two major titles, telling a press conference in Abu Dhabi: "I don't play golf for the money, I am well past that."
He added: "I'm a major champion and world number one, which I have always dreamed of being, and feel this is a company that can help me sustain that and win even more major titles. At the end of 2013, if I have not won another major I will be disappointed."
The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland will use Nike's full range of equipment, with the clubs in competitive action for the first time in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship later this week against a field including the other leading golf name in Nike colours, 14-major winner and world number two Tiger Woods.
Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, refused to discuss details of McIlroy's contract, including whether there were any "behaviour" clauses given previous problems with Nike athletes Woods and Lance Armstrong.
But she added: "Rory is an extraordinary athlete who creates enormous excitement with his on-course performance while, at the same time, connecting with fans everywhere.
"He is the epitome of a Nike athlete and he is joining our team during the most exciting time in Nike Golf's history. We are looking forward to partnering with him to take his remarkable career to the next level."
McIlroy, a boy wonder who was the world under-10 champion in 1998, turned professional in 2007, two months after finishing as the leading amateur in The Open at Carnoustie. Only 18 at the time, he finished third in the Dunhill Links at St Andrews on just his second start in the paid ranks, but had to wait until the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic for his first victory.
Perhaps amazingly, he has still to win on European soil, all his successes since coming in America (five, including two majors), Asia (two) or back in the Middle East - he finished last season with five birdies in a row to lift the DP World Tour title in Dubai.
© Copyright 2001-2015 Newsquest Media Group