Nike on Monday confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in golf, announcing it had signed a multi-year deal with the top-ranked McIlroy for the Northern Irishman to use the company's equipment and apparel.
The deal means Nike now has golf's two biggest names representing its brand, as Woods has been with the sportswear company since turning pro in 1996.
The deal with McIlroy was announced in a lavish ceremony in the United Arab Emirates ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, where he will use the company's equipment for the first time. The event opened with a hologram of McIlroy swinging a club and included a video showing Woods, Roger Federer and Wayne Rooney welcoming him to Nike.
"Rory is an extraordinary athlete who creates enormous excitement with his on-course performance while, at the same time connecting with fans everywhere," said Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf. "He is the epitome of a Nike athlete, and he is joining our team during the most exciting time in Nike Golf's history. We are looking forward to partnering with him to take his remarkable career to the next level."
Nike did not disclose any details of the deal, but industry observers have estimated it to be worth up to $20 million a year.
However, McIlroy insisted he's not making the switch because of the money.
"I don't play golf for the money, I am well past that," McIlroy said. "I'm a major champion and world No. 1, which I have always dreamed of being, and feel this is a company that can help me sustain that and win even more major titles. At the end of 2013, if I have not won another major I will be disappointed."
McIlroy and Woods have already developed a friendly rivalry lately, and they will likely be seen together even more often from now on.
Nike already unveiled a new commercial entitled No Cup is Safe that begins running Wednesday featuring McIlroy and Woods on the driving range -- with each trying to outdo the other. The players first take turn aiming at the driving range hole and then start hitting more spectacular targets, with balls going into wine glasses at a wedding and a soup bowl in a restaurant. It ends with McIlroy picking up his water glass to find Woods' golf ball.
"How did you do that?" McIlroy asks. Woods retorts: "You'll learn."
McIlroy's switch to Nike had been widely expected. In October, McIlroy cut ties with Acushnet Co., which had supplied him with Titleist and FootJoy gear since he turned pro five years ago. And this month, Jumeirah Group announced it was not renewing its five-year sponsorship deal with the Northern Irishman.