Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rory, Rory haul-a-moolah

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are on the same team now -- at least when it comes to sponsorship.

McIlroy officially made the switch to the swoosh on Monday as Nike confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in golf, announcing it had signed a multi-year deal with the top-ranked Northern Irishman.

The deal means Nike now has golf's two biggest names representing its brand, as Woods has been with the sportswear company since turning pro in 1996. Nike did not disclose any financial details of the deal, but industry observers have estimated that McIlroy will be paid up to $20 million a year to use the company's equipment and apparel.

The partnership with McIlroy was announced in a lavish ceremony in the United Arab Emirates ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, where he will use the company's equipment for the first time. The event opened with a hologram of McIlroy swinging a club and included a video showing Woods, Roger Federer and Wayne Rooney welcoming him to Nike.

"Rory is an extraordinary athlete who creates enormous excitement with his on-course performance while, at the same time connecting with fans everywhere," said Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf. "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 said he was "really excited" to start the season and insisted he has made a "seamless" adjustment to his new equipment, especially his driver.

"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in the bag straight away," McIlroy said. "It blew me away. My ball speed was up. My numbers were good. I'm hitting it further. I thought I hit it far before but this is taking it to a new level. That's great."

McIlroy's switch to Nike had been widely expected. In October, McIlroy cut ties with Acushnet Co., which had supplied him with Titleist and FootJoy gear since he turned pro five years ago. This month, Jumeirah Group announced it was not renewing its sponsorship deal with the Northern Irishman.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2013 C5

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