What's buzzing:

Devil Ball Golf

Rory McIlroy now has ‘highest paid athlete’ in his sights

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

View photo

.

Getty Images

There is no doubt that Rory McIlroy is marketable. The two-time major winner, both by a combined 16 shots, seems to have it all, and companies are taking notice.

The recent announcement that Rory and Nike would pair up had some astonishing numbers tossed around, with some experts saying the 23-year-old could be earning somewhere around $20 million a year and while a lot think that number is overblown, one thing is definitely not; as golf goes, the new crush for companies is McIlroy and McIlroy alone.

Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes posted a story on Rory's financial potential, saying the new Nike deal has him behind just Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the highest paid golfers but that isn't the only ceiling Rory could be shooting for.

As of now, Forbes has Floyd Mayweather ranked as the highest paid athlete and Manny Pacquiao second (Woods lands at third, with LeBron James at No. 4 and Roger Federer rounding out the top five), but the global impact that McIlroy could definitely give those boxers, and others, a (and excuse the pun) run for their money.

[Related: What impact will Rory McIlroy have on Nike (and Tiger)?]

Starting on Thursday, Rory will be sporting his Nike gear from head to toe, replacing his previous deal with Oakley gear and FootJoy shoes, but that doesn't mean he can't add some other players to his wardrobe (and golf bag). As of now, Rory still has his endorsement deal with watchmaker Audemars Piguet and if the Northern Irishman continues his play on the golf course that he showed at the end of 2012, I'm sure some other big players will be willing to foot the skyrocketing number that Rory and his team could ask for.

So what would Rory have to do to land ahead of someone like Mayweather, who earned $85 million in 2012? One thing that could help him is his interest right here in the United States. According to the Forbes report, a survey showed that Rory was the fifth most popular golfer when Americans were polled, trailing names like Woods, Mickelson and even Fred Couples.

But the draw could come. Rory punished a stocky U.S. Open field in 2011, but the event seemed to lack the normal toughness of our nation's tournament. And while the PGA Championship is still considered a major, it is definitely the one that drums up the least amount of interest with sports fans that have college football to watch as the final round concludes.

[Photo: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s bromance continues]

What Rory needs is to win the Masters, and hopefully in epic fashion. That is the golf tournament that gets the most eyeballs and if the 2004 Masters was any indication of how much people will talk if the finish deserves it, Rory could do himself a ton of help by snagging a green jacket, and soon.

No matter if he does or not, he is still the star a-shinin' in the golf world. Nike noticed, and pounced, and now it'll be up to other companies to see if they can land the No. 1 golfer in the world as his market value soars.

For more golf news, Rory news and Tiger news, follow us on Twitter at @shanebacon and @yahoodevilball.

More sports news from the Yahoo! Sports Minute:

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Why don't free NBA tickets fill empty arenas?
New York youth soccer club bans high fives and handshakes
Y! News: Robot baby expresses human emotions

View Comments (176)
  • NYPD: Teacher arrested for allegedly flying drone at US Open

    NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York City teacher has been arrested for allegedly crashing a drone into an empty section of seats at the U.S Open. … More »

    AP - Sports - 48 minutes ago
  • Bayern boss says rejected 'very high' Mueller offer

    Bayern boss says rejected 'very high' Mueller offer

    (Reuters) - Bayern Munich rejected a "very high" offer for versatile attacking midfielder Thomas Mueller this summer, president of the German club Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said. The 25-year-old Mueller, who worked with Manchester United manager … More »

    Reuters - 13 minutes ago
  • Hamilton fastest as Mercedes dominate at Monza

    Hamilton fastest as Mercedes dominate at Monza

    By Alan Baldwin MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton set the pace in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix on Friday with Mercedes team mate and closest rival Nico Rosberg nearly half a second slower. The Briton, … More »

    Reuters - 14 minutes ago
  • Mercedes dominates opening Italian GP practice; Vettel spins

    Mercedes dominates opening Italian GP practice; Vettel spins

    MONZA, Italy (AP) -- Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominated the opening practice session for the Italian Grand Prix on Friday, while Sebastian Vettel spun out at low speed after setting the third-fastest time in his Ferrari. … More »

    AP - Sports - 34 minutes ago
  • Debuchy mulled Arsenal exit after losing place to Bellerin

    Debuchy mulled Arsenal exit after losing place to Bellerin

    Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy has said he considered leaving the Gunners after losing his place in their starting line-up to Spaniard Hector Bellerin, French sports daily L'Equipe reported. Arsene Wenger signed the France international for a … More »

    Reuters - 43 minutes ago