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Executive Sports Co: Rory McIlroy Is Golf's Leading Man With British Open Win
Kyle Gaspari, founder and owner of Executive Sports Co in Burlington and Toronto, ON, says Rory McIlroy proved Sunday that he can be that guy with a British Open win that marked his third major championship at the age of 25. The only golfers to win three majors at a younger age are Jack Nicklaus (23) and Woods (24). The sky is the limit for McIlroy.
“McIlroy has been destined for greatness since he reached the top 10 in the world in 2009 at just 20 years old,” he says. “He broke the U.S. Open scoring record at 16 under in 2011 to claim his first major title in a romp of eight strokes over runner-up Jason Day. He added a PGA Championship in 2012 in another runaway victory by eight strokes. It highlighted a monster year where McIlroy was the leading money winner for both the PGA and European Tour. He ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the world in 2012, becoming the second youngest to attain the perch after Woods.”
Gaspari has seen his share of professional golf tournaments as his company is and elite ticket and hospitality provider for many of the world's top sporting events including The British Open, the Masters Tournament, The Super Bowl, and Formula One Racing.
McIlroy had a hiccup in 2013 with his world ranking dropping to No. 6 as he adjusted to playing with new clubs after signing a blockbuster deal with Nike at the end of 2012. Initial reports put the deal at $250 million over 10 years, but the sources have told Forbes that it is closer to a five-year deal worth $12-13 million a year. It is still a huge pact that is the second biggest in the sport behind only Woods’ own deal with Nike. The Swoosh generated $789 million from its golf division in the fiscal year ending in May.
Last year proved rocky off the course too with McIlroy embroiled in a lawsuit with prior sponsor Oakley, who claimed it owned the first right of refusal to match the sunglasses portion of his Nike deal. McIlroy also found himself in a lawsuit with his former management company, Horizon Sports, over fees when McIlroy left Horizon to set up his own company. McIlroy says he paid more than $6.8 million to Horizon and argues the fees were “unreasonable,” while Horizon argues it is still owed fees for endorsement deals negotiated on McIlroy’s behalf. Oakley and McIlroy settled their suit at the end of 2013 with terms not released. Horizon and McIlroy are expected to head to court in early 2015. This year included a messy break-up with his fiancée, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, after their wedding invitations had been sent out.
But McIlroy has seemingly recovered from his turbulent 18 months (Wozniacki too, as she won her first tournament of the year on Sunday). McIlroy’s immense talent was on display this week when he became only the seventh man to win the British Open wire-to-wire in the tournament’s 134 year history. Sunday’s win marked his second victory of the year, and Monday he will rise to second in the official world golf rankings. His only misstep this week was a shout-out to his beloved Manchester United squad during his victory speech. The boos immediately rained down from the pro-Liverpool crowd.
Golf is in the midst of an era with a heavy dose of parity with 18 different winners in the last 23 major tournaments and none named Tiger Woods. Golf thrives on dominant players winning consistently. Casual golf fans tune in to tournaments on TV to see history happen. Despite hailing from tiny Northern Ireland with 1.8 million people, McIlroy has the potential to be a transcendent international star. The opportunity to be the best European player ever is on the table. McIlroy is the only golfer on the globe with more than two majors under his belt over the past seven years.
McIlroy ranked No. 35 in Forbes’ look at the world’s highest-paid athletes with earnings of $24.3 million. He earns $20 million a year off the course from appearance fees and sponsors like Nike, Banco Santander, Omega and Bose. His appearance fees for a barnstorming tour of Asia at the end of last year, and included stops in China and Korea, were more than a million a pop. The only other golfers in the world that command fees in that range are Woods and Mickelson. McIlroy pocketed $1.7 million in prize money for his win on Sunday. His father Gerry is also a huge winner. He reportedly bet £200 at 500-1 odds in 2004 that a 15-year-old Rory McIlroy would be a British Open champion before he turned 26. The payout is $170,000. Friends of Gerry McIlroy also made futures bets that paid out more than $135,000 with the victory.
McIlroy expects to contend for majors for years to come and talked excitedly Sunday about going to the Masters in April with the chance to become only the sixth player to win the career grand slam in the Masters era. McIlroy’s ascent creates another narrative for casual golf fans beyond when will Tiger win another major. McIlroy is looking beyond Augusta also. At the trophy presentation Sunday he said, “I can’t wait to get back and defend this [trophy] at St. Andrew’s next year.”