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Rory McIlroy expected to sign £156m Nike sponsorship deal

In terms of career earnings Rory McIlroy still drifts a long way behind his hero Tiger Woods, but the Northern Irishman could step into a fresh financial spectrum if a $250m (£156m) deal with Nike Golf is finally confirmed.

Rumours about a McIlroy tie-up with Nike have been a hot topic over the last few weeks and the golfer's management company is refusing to comment on the speculation. However, it is believed that McIlroy is very close to a 10-year agreement with the sports manufacturing giant which, crucially, would see him change all of his equipment for the first time since turning professional.

McIlroy's existing contracts with Titleist, who supply him with clubs and golf balls, the Dubai-based hotel group Jumeirah, the sunglasses manufacturer Oakley, Santander bank, and the watchmaker Audemars Piguet are said to have netted him an estimted $10m (£6.25m). On top of that, McIlroy will have received further bonuses for his two major championship wins to date.

Nike insist on exclusive branding on its elite sportsmen, which would result in settlement fees being required towards those sponsors of McIlroy whose contracts are not about to expire. His Titleist deal will end at the end of this year barring a now unlikely extension.

McIlroy has already racked up career earnings of roughly £15m at the age of just 23. A deal with Nike would mean earnings far beyond that of any other European golfer, though leaving him still a long way short of Woods.

McIlroy holds obvious appeal to Nike, his clean-cut image and apparent inability to court controversy makes him infinitely marketable.

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