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Rory's PS20m payout a drop in ocean.

WHILE most clubs offer a series of deals for those sensible enough to book well in advance of playing, golf can be an expensive pastime, but how much would you be prepared to pay to play a worry-free round at, say, Augusta? In a Dublin courthouse last week, it would appear that Rory McIlroy's answer is 'plenty' after he dropped around PS20 million for the privilege, so ending a long-running dispute with his former management company and leaving him free to concentrate on winning a career grand slam at the US Masters in April.

Following the resolution, a joint statement was issued which said the dispute between Horizon Sports Management and the world's No.1 golfer had been "settled to the satisfaction of both parties who wish each other well for the future."

McIlroy's legal team had previously offered Horizon and its founder Conor Ridge around PS8 million in order to avoid a protracted legal case being heard in Dublin, but as both sides sought to avoid unnecessary publicity, the court deferred the hearing as McIlroy's lawyers upped their offer to PS15 million. Once legal expenses, estimated to be somewhere approaching PS5 million, are taken into account, McIlroy's desire to split from the company that secured his $100 million, five-year deal with Nike has proved expensive.

Yet the expense is relative. In addition to his deal with Nike, the Northern Irishman has several lucrative sponsorship and endorsement contracts, which generate an estimated PS18 million a year. Once on-course winnings are accounted for (last year McIlroy collected PS8 million), the settlement is the equivalent of nine months' income.

As if to emphasise the point that he's unlikely to miss PS20 million, even before the resolution was formally announced, McIlroy tweeted a photo of himself en route to his home in Florida - direct from his private jet.

? The R&A's decision to accept 'Sky's shilling' (a cool PS75 million over five years) to screen the Open Championship from 2017 continues to attract opprobrium and praise in equal measure.

Traditionalists who maintain (rightly, in my opinion) that Sky's golf coverage is unusually poor, littered with far too many commercial breaks, are aggrieved.

Rory McIlroy n For 60 years, the BBC has done a sterling job in televising one of Britain's most iconic sporting events. However, once R&A chief executive Peter Dawson admitted that the organisation had failed in its duty to grow the game in recent years - and the BBC would not increase its PS7 million-a-year offer to broadcast the Open, it was clear that Sky were home and dry.

In truth, continuing with free-to-air coverage appeared unlikely to arrest a decline in regular playing numbers, which have fallen from 950,000 to 730,000 since 2008. Not only did Sky have much deeper pockets than the BBC, they wasted little time in pointing out that their golfing audience is, on average, ten years younger than that of the BBC.

outside court As the R&A initiatives, effectively due to be funded by Sky's cash, will concentrate on attracting younger players to the game, and focusing on the health benefits for older golfers, it appears the organisation had little choice but to break with tradition and hitch their wagon to the nation's most powerful sports broadcaster. Time, and playing numbers, will tell whether this was the right call.

? Paul McGinley's stock has risen severalfold since he captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory last year and he's been seen recently beaming from an ad promoting his golf academy, at Qunta do Lago on Portugal's beautiful Algarve coast.

Operated in conjunction with club manufacturers Taylor Made, from next month the academy is offering three-day tuition programmes to golfers ready to put their game under the microscope. The programmes run until October at a cost of [euro]950 for two players. Further details can be found at www.quntadolago.com. ? He's completed only two official PGA Tour events in the last 500 days, which suggests that injury could call time on Tiger Woods' career much earlier than anyone ever thought.

He's 40 this year and has endured four operations since 2002. How much longer, one scribe mused this week, will he have the stomach to battle on as a mere mortal?

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 12, 2015
Words:713
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