GOLF: Rory McIlroy's bumper $20m-a-year deal with Nike moved a step closer to completion today after the Jumeirah Group announced that it is not renewing its five-year sponsorship deal with the world No 1.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman is expected to announce that he will sign with Nike next week.
The United Arab Emirates hotel group signed a five-year deal with McIlroy when he was only 18 and was one of his first corporate sponsors. Since then, the Ulsterman has risen to become the world's number one golfer. In the same period, Jumeirah has doubled the number of hotels it operates around the world.
"We are extremely proud of Rory's rise to the number one spot with Jumeirah as his principal sponsor since he turned professional. We are delighted with his consistent support of Jumeirah hotels & resorts around the world," said Jumeirah Group president and CEO Gerald Lawless.
Rory McIlroy commented: "Jumeirah became my first corporate sponsor when I turned professional back in 2007, and I would like to thank everyone at the company for their support in helping me become the player I am today."
Jumeirah's announcement allows McIlroy to pursue a lucrative endorsement contract, with strong indications that he will sign with Nike in a deal that one industry observer estimated at $20m a year. That would give Nike golf's two biggest stars in McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who has been with the sportswear giant since 1996.
Meanwhile, Dustin Johnson is in pole position to win the first PGA tournament of the year after some impressive power hitting put him three shots clear heading into today's third and final round at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.