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Rory McIlroy begins Open title defence after slipping down Forbes celebrity rich list

Co Down golfer Rory McIlroy will begin his pursuit of his Open Championship title today. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA Wire

RORY McIlroy will begin his pursuit of the Open Championship title today as it emerged he has slipped down the Forbes celebrity rich list.

The Holywood golfer, whose fortune fell by £6.8m over the past year, said he is determined to get back to winning ways in majors.

McIlroy missed last year's Open at St Andrews with an ankle problem so is technically looking for back-to-back Claret Jugs having won at Hoylake in 2014.

The 27-year-old is to tee off at Royal Troon at 2.47pm alongside Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson of the US.

However, the world number four endured a difficult practice round yesterday ahead of his bid for a fifth major title, taking six shots to get out of bunker.

McIlroy's preparations for the 145th Open Championship have been overshadowed by the debate over the sport's place at the Olympics.

The four-time major winner opted out due to concerns over the Zika virus, but made it clear he views major championships rather than Olympic medals as the "pinnacle" of the sport.

Asked which events he would watch on television, McIlroy said: "Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving - the stuff that matters."

McIlroy also said golf had to change its drug testing policy in order to be accepted at a multi-sport event like the Olympics. He said he had only been tested around four times this year.



Speaking about the forthcoming Open, he said he was determined to get back to winning ways.

"I guess it's the start of a new chapter for me in the Open Championship," he said.

"It was very disappointing to miss last year but I'm determined not to miss any more for the foreseeable future."

Despite his optimism, the Co Down golfer has seen a dip in earnings over the past year, slipping down the Forbes annual celebrity rich list.

Forbes reported that the golfer earned a £32m fortune over the past year, down £6.8m from the previous year.

McIlroy has fell from number 41 in the world's richest celebrities to number 60.

But according to the Forbes website, McIlroy continues to be a "bankable marketing star".

"Nike, his biggest endorsement deal, pays nearly $20m (£15.1m) annually," it stated.

"He also partners with Omega, Bose and Upper Deck. McIlroy replaced Tiger Woods as the face of Electronic Arts' golf video game last year."

It also stated: "He also settled a messy lawsuit last year with former agents who accused him of owing millions of dollars in commissions".

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