McIlroy’s British Open Title Makes Him Endorsement ‘Heir’

Rory McIlroy’s British Open title leaves him a Masters Tournament victory away from the career grand slam and makes him “heir to the Tiger Woods endorsement throne,” according to a sports marketing expert.

McIlroy, 25, from Northern Ireland, held off final-round charges yesterday from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler to become the third-youngest golfer to win three majors and earn his father $170,000 on a bet placed in 2004.

Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, said McIlroy’s two-shot victory should translate into an additional $3 million to $5 million annually in off-course earnings.

“It re-establishes him as the golfer with the most marketing potential, heir to the Tiger Woods endorsement throne and most likely to land crossover deals for everything from fast food to cool cars to smartphones,” Dorfman said in an e-mail.

Woods, 38, who won the most recent of his 14 major titles more than six years ago, earned $83 million in 2013, with $71 million coming from off the course, according to Golf Digest.

McIlroy made $20.6 million in 2013, according to Golf Digest, ranking sixth in the sport. About $18 million of that total came off the course, including an eight-figure deal with Nike Inc., the magazine said.

He added 975,000 pounds ($1.7 million) with yesterday’s victory, raising his career on-course earnings to about $18.8 million.

“McIlroy certainly looks to be heading towards all-time greatness and iconic status, and considering the long shelf life of a pro golfer, a marketing force for many years to come,” Dorfman said.

Nicklaus Youngest

Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 career major victories is a record, was the youngest to win three major titles when he captured the PGA Championship in 1963. Woods was 24 when he won the 2000 U.S. Open for his third major win.

McIlroy led after each round at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. He embraced his mother on the 18th green after the victory.

“This is actually my first major that my mom has been at when I’ve won, so mom, this one is for you,” he said at the trophy ceremony. “The Open is the one that we all want, the one that we all strive for, and to be able to hold this Claret Jug is an incredible feeling.”

His father won 100,000 pounds with the victory. Gerry McIlroy placed a 200-pound bet at 500-1 odds in 2004 on his son, then 15, winning the golf tournament within 10 years, U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Career Slams

The victory moved McIlroy three-fourths of the way to golf’s modern career grand slam. He won the U.S. Open in 2011 and the PGA Championship in 2012 and now needs a victory at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, to become the sixth man to complete the slam.

Both Nicklaus and Woods have won the career grand slam three times over. The others to do so are Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen, while Bobby Jones captured the U.S. and British opens and the U.S. and British amateurs in what was the career grand slam of his day.

McIlroy finished at 17 under. Spain’s Garcia and Fowler of the U.S. finished tied for second at 15 under, while American Jim Furyk was fourth at 13 under. Australians Marc Leishman and Adam Scott were an additional shot back.

Woods, playing his first major this year following back surgery, shot a 3-over-par 75 in the final round to finish the tournament at 6 over -- leaving him in 69th place. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany was two shots worse, finishing at 8 over par.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson of the U.S. completed the tournament at 5 under.

Four-Round Leader

McIlroy shot a 6-under 66 in each of his first two rounds, giving him a four-shot lead entering the weekend. He took a six-shot lead into yesterday’s final round, marking the seventh time a golfer has led all four rounds of the British Open.

Big leads have been a staple of McIlroy’s career. He blew a four-shot advantage in the final round of the 2011 Masters, then won that year’s U.S. Open by twice that many strokes. He also had an eight-shot win at the 2012 PGA Championship.

McIlroy has overcome criticism of having too many off-the-course distractions, including his relationship with former No. 1-ranked tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, to whom he was engaged before ending the relationship in May.

Yesterday’s victory is a stark contrast to last year’s British Open, where he shot an opening-round 79 at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland and missed the cut for weekend play, saying he felt “brain dead.”

“This is a huge win for Brand McIlroy, coming off a long drought, extended adjustment period to new Nike equipment and the embarrassing fallout from his broken engagement to Caroline Wozniacki,” Dorfman said.