With a reported new $100 million equipment deal in his pocket, and a gleaming new wedding ring on his finger, life on and off the golf course seems pretty rosey for Rory McIlroy.
The Northern Irishman, who turned 28 on May 4, has committed to use TaylorMade clubs and balls for the next decade — $10 million a year — as he targets a return to world No. 1 and looks to add to his four major titles.
The huge cheque is on top of the reported $200 million he will receive from renewing his Nike apparel deal earlier this year.
Ranked second behind Dustin Johnson, McIlroy has been without a club sponsor since Nike pulled out of the equipment market last year.
“I tested different combinations, a lot of different stuff, and I came to the conclusion that that was the best way forward for me to try and improve, try and win more, try to get back to world No. 1, try to win more majors,” McIlroy told reporters ahead of this week’s Players Championship at Sawgrass, Florida.
McIlroy, who recently married finance Erica Stoll in a lavish but private affair at Ashford Castle in the north west of Ireland, joins Johnson, former world No. 1 Jason Day and Masters champion Sergio Garcia as TaylorMade players.
He also trialed Callaway clubs and Titleist balls but settled on the all-in TaylorMade deal after extensive testing following a tied seventh finish as he gunned for golf’s grand slam of all four majors at the Masters in April.
“I’ve been on Tour 10 years … it’s very rare that you get really excited about your equipment, but I feel like it’s a new chapter in my life with a lot of stuff going on, but I really feel with the new equipment, as well, it’s hopefully going to take me to that next level,” said McIlroy, who will use TaylorMade M2 woods, prototype blade irons and the TP5x ball.
The Players Championship will be McIlroy’s first start since becoming a married man late last month.
The recently engaged Garcia proved the worth of a settled family life when he won his maiden major at Augusta last month.
“It was obviously the best weekend of my life and hopefully the best weekend of Erica’s, as well,” said McIlroy, the 2016 FedEx Cup winner who clinched the last of his four majors in 2014.
“We tried to keep it as private as possible. It was between our friends and families and we didn’t really want anything else. It was a weekend of celebrations.”
The Players tournament is unofficially known as golf’s fifth major because of its storied history, strong field, celebrated course and bumper prize fund.
The purse is $10.5m (£8.1m) with the winner receiving $ 1.89 million, the biggest prize on Tour outside the majors.
The TPC Sawgrass Stadium course is famous for its par-three island-green 17th, which has wrecked the chances of numerous contenders over the years.
Australia’s Day won last year’s event to cap a hot streak which yielded seven victories in 17 starts, a period of domination which countryman Adam Scott described as “Tiger-esque.”
“I honestly felt there was no one better than me in the game, and that it didn’t matter who it was, I was going to beat them,” said Day, who has not won since, and has taken time out to care for his mother who is back at work after undergoing cancer treatment.
He told reporters in Sawgrass he became “mentally burnt out” with his charge to No. 1, but says he is “ready to climb that mountain again.”
American Johnson has never won at Sawgrass, but will be the hot favorite after recovering from his back injury suffered in a fall ahead of the Masters to finish tied second last week to add to his three straight wins leading up to the Augusta event.
“Physically, I’m really good,” said Johnson after the Wells Fargo tournament. “Everything’s 100 percent, feeling great. I can swing at it, no problems. Still got a lot of practice to do to get ready for next week [and The Players Championship], but looking forward to it.”