Rory McIlroy leaves Titleist and could be set for huge sponsorship deal with Tiger Woods at Nike
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 31/10/12 11:47am
One of the worst-kept secrets in golf is halfway to completion after Rory McIlroy and his equipment sponsors Titleist parted ways, paving the way for a big-money move to Nike.
The Acushnet Company which manufactures the Titleist and FootJoy brands have officially announced that McIlroy will not renew his deal and will leave their stable after being with them since the start of his professional career back in 2007.
World number one McIlroy has been tight-lipped on the subject of what clubs he will have in the bag next year, but the two parties have now confirmed that he will not be using Titleist in 2013.
"Our goal has been to provide Rory with the best equipment and service that would help him be the best player he could possibly be," said Acushnet Company CEO Wally Uihlein.
"He has been a great ambassador for the Titleist and FootJoy brands, and in turn, we are proud of how our equipment has contributed to his success. We wish Rory all the best, both personally and professionally, going forward."
McIlroy thanked Titleist and FootJoy, who has been with ever since he burst onto the pro scene as an 18-year-old before winning two majors and becoming a Ryder Cup star.
Stablemates? McIlroy could join Woods at Nike
"I would like to thank Wally Uihlein and all of the tour staff and employees at Titleist and FootJoy for everything they have done for me since I turned professional in 2007," said McIlroy.
"I have enjoyed five very exciting and successful years with the company and I will always appreciate the contribution Titleist has made in helping me become the player I am today."
The only question now seems to be the size of the contract McIlroy will receive, with most reports suggesting a 10-year contract worth around £15 million a year will be on the table from sportswear giants Nike.
McIlroy won four times in 2012 including at the USPGA Championship when he recorded his second major win by eight shots, and his undoubted talent make him the most marketable golfer since Woods himself came onto the scene.
Having the top two players in the world would be a huge coup for Nike, who are relative newcomers to the club manufacturer market but have put a lot of money into that area in recent years and regularly get the likes of Woods to advise them on technical improvements.
Switching clubs can be a huge risk, but McIlroy will have a thorough testing process before signing on the dotted line and modern technology means clubs can be tailored for a player's every need, although it remains to be seen if he will in fact be sporting the famous Nike swoosh in the future.