Blowing Up: Rory McIlroy
rory mcilroy

2012 was the year that young golfer Rory McIlroy went from Irish celeb to worldwide phenom with his PGA Championship win. McIlroy won the most money of anyone on tour and earned PGA and PGA Tour player of the year honors.

But his biggest achievement? Nike came calling, with a 10-year deal (still unofficial) that will make him the highest-paid golfer in the world. Reports have said his Nike contract will carry a payout of $200 million, but our sources say it may be more like $250 million. McIlroy's current deal with Titleist and Footjoy expires at the end of the year—Mac has already announced he will not renew with Acushnet, which owns both brands—and the Nike deal would involve head-to-toe apparel and equipment.

McIlroy will go from making about $10 million a year to $25 million from Nike alone. Add that to active deals with Jumeirah Group (a luxury hotel chain), watchmaker Audemars Piguet (you may have heard Jay-Z rap about them once or twice) and insurance giant Santander. Tiger Woods will remain the most famous face on the Nike Golf roster, but McIlroy will be its most expensive.

Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising believes McIlroy is "the biggest breakout of the year" in any sport and adds, "that's pretty unusual for a guy who's not American-born."

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 02 2013 10:15 AM ET
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