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Despite slump, golf 'will survive': Rory McIlroy

Coming off his latest major win, golfer Rory McIlroy told CNBC he feels a duty to help drive the popularity of the sport as participation levels slide.

"We have some responsibility to try and bring some of the young people into the game, but I still feel like the game of golf will survive," the 25-year-old McIlroy said in an interview for "Squawk Box" that aired Tuesday.

He and Tiger Woods teamed up Monday night to introduce Nike's latest line of irons in its Vapor franchise, and talk about the state of the industry at an event at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City.

McIlroy and Woods, who has been sidelined again for more recovery from recent back surgery, were also on ''The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'' Monday night to talk up the game.

In town for The Barclays golf tournament this week at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, McIlroy told CNBC that golf numbers are down because the demands of modern life make playing 18 holes difficult. But he added that he believes people are still interested and want to be involved in the sport. "People may not have time to play 18 holes but if we brought some shortened version of the game to them, they can still play 9 holes."

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his third shot to the seventh hole during the final round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 10, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his third shot to the seventh hole during the final round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 10, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Following his win at the PGA Championship—after claiming victory at the British Open last month—McIlroy may be golf's biggest hope to drive ratings and get people interested in the sport in a post-Tiger era. His win at Valhalla this month helped deliver CBS' best ratings in five years—up 36 percent from last year, when Jason Dufner beat Jim Furyk.

While retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods and Adidas have seen major declines in their golf sales, Nike Golf has managed to stay fairly steady. The company reported golf revenue of $789 million in 2014, compared with $792 million in 2013.

"As we go through this transition with golf, it's important to remember that this is a sport that has been around for centuries. It has always endured. There will always be golf," Nike Golf President Cindy Davis told CNBC.

The golf division for Nike makes up a fraction of the company's $27.8-billion revenue, but Davis says the energy that stars like Woods and McIlroy bring is felt across the entire Nike brand.

Originally from Northern Ireland, McIlroy has become only the fourth player in the last century to win four major championships before the age of 26—joining the exclusive club of Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Bobby Jones.

"I've had a great run so far and I want to keep this stretch going as long as I can. I'm just going to try and make the most of every week I have and go from there," McIlroy said.

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—By CNBC's Jessica Golden