Sport Golf

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Riches keep rolling as Spieth and Co profit from staying the course

Published 15/01/2016 | 02:30

Padraig Harrington plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii (Getty)
Padraig Harrington plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii (Getty)

Professional golf is such a lovely way to make a living for those at the top of their game.

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Everywhere they turn, the best players have opportunities to grow their bank balance on and off the course.

It's not about Monopoly money - it's way bigger than that.

Jordan Spieth's supplanting of Tiger Woods as the top earner in the game in the annual 'Golf Digest' magazine assessments, illustrates the potential rewards available to the elite.

Eat your heart out, soccer stars, rugby players, jockeys, and a host of other sporting professionals.

Come to think of it, Taoisigh, Presidents, and Prime Ministers must also blanch at the 'nett pay transferred to bank' figure on the bottom of their monthly pay cheque when they consider that golf's top 2015 earner, Jordan Spieth, 23, brought in $53 million (€48.8 million).

And that is for just one year in the early stages of this young man's career.

His 2016 income has already soared with the announcement that Spieth is to be an ambassador for Coca-Cola.

Cheapskate

They don't do cheapskate, so ka-ching, ka-ching go the cash registers in Spieth's accountant's office.

And let's not forget the $1,180,000 (€1,086,403) cheque he accepted only last Sunday as the winner of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua.

Keep making birdies, and the money takes care of itself - provided the talent is combined with hard work and single-minded ambition. That's the recipe for success.

I recall some years ago when, as chairman of the Irish Golf Writers Association, one of the duties required me to make the after-dinner speech.

In the assembled gathering were Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington. McIlroy was powering forward in his career; Shane was going nicely and earning some decent cheques, and Harrington had won his three Majors.

The recession had bitten hard, and austerity was becoming the new religion for Ireland courtesy of our real rulers in Europe, headed by the dreaded Troika.

It was irresistible.

"Just think," I ventured. "If Rory and Shane had taken their school work seriously, and did all their homework, and got their exams, and went to college and applied themselves diligently to their studies instead of spending all that time playing golf ... they could be unemployed graduates now, instead of being two of the wealthiest young men of their age in the country!"

Since then, McIlroy and Lowry have gone on to even greater heights, and continue to give much pleasure to Irish sports fans, not to mention enhancing their own earning power.

Today, Lowry is in action at the EurAsia Cup match in Kuala Lumpur, an event, which, unlike the Ryder Cup, offers pay-for-play to the teams.

Each member of the winning team will receive $300,000; each member of the losing team goes home with $100,000.

In fairness, the 24 golfers and their respective captains, Darren Clarke and Jeev Milkha Singh, are focused on winning the event, and will leave consideration of financial matters until the last putt drops on Sunday.

The Europeans are overwhelming favourites to win, and skipper Clarke has done his homework by delving into a 48-page dossier of statistics on his players as well as assessing their compatibility for his pairings.

Another departure from the Ryder Cup is that all the players play each day, starting with six fourballs followed by six foursomes tomorrow and ending with 12 singles matches on Sunday.

"The team have been wonderful to work with this week. I feel very fortunate and humble that I am their captain this week," said Clarke.

Meanwhile, Kevin Phelan made the best start of the Irish in the Joburg Open being played on the East and West courses at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington GC,

Easier

Phelan's three-under-par 68 on the West course, rated the easier of the two layouts, left him in tied-26th, just four shots adrift of the first round leader Justin Walters of South Africa who shot 65 on the East Course.

Paul Dunne, Ruaidhri McGee, and Michael Hoey each registered one-under-par 71s on the East Course. There were 210 starters, and the players face a round each on the East and West Course before the final 36 holes takes place on the East layout.

Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell were among the early starters in the first round of the $5.8 million Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.

Harrington shot a four-under-par 66 on the tricky par 70, 7,044-yard layout, slotting five birdies and just one bogey, leaving him just three shots behind early clubhouse leaders Ricky Barnes and Vijay Singh who were on seven-under par. McDowell started at the 10th, and was one over after nine. He struggled for momentum but finished with a birdie on his 18th for level-par 70.

Jo'burg Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30am

Sony Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, Midnight

EurAsia Cup, Live, Sky Sports 4, 12.30am

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