Golf: McIlroy joins Nike in blockbuster deal

ABU DHABI (AFP) - Golf's world No. 1 Rory McIlroy on Monday confirmed he had signed on with sportswear and equipment giant Nike in a deal believed to be one the biggest sponsorship contracts in the history of sport.

With the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque lit up in the background, he stepped onto a stage wearing the Nike swoosh and revealed the clubs he will take into competition starting at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the UAE capital.

No exact details of what the deal was worth were released, but press reports have estimated it could bring the 23-year-old Northern Irishman up to US$250 million (S$306 million) over 10 years.

"Growing up I always thought all the best athletes in most sports were Nike players and I'm looking forward to joining the Nike family," he said.

"I began testing the clubs late last year at the Nike factory in Texas and I could not be more happy.

"Hopefully now using Nike I have an even better year than last year. Last year was great winning a second major championship and getting to No. 1 in the world and this year I feel I can go to a new level and higher than I ever had and hopefully more Majors."

McIlroy was introduced as a Nike staff player by Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, who indicated he had signed a "multi-year" agreement.

"Today marks a significant moment for our brand and our golf business, and for the career of an extraordinary young athlete," she said.

"We could not be more thrilled with tonight's announcement.

"The beginning of 2013 for us is one of the most exciting times since Tiger Woods joined the 'Swoosh'."