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El Nino's star on the wane

SERGIO GARCIA has plummeted out of the elite top 50 to No 78 in golf's world rankings after failing to win anywhere in 26 months since the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai in November 2008.

Yet the Spaniard, who celebrates his 31st birthday tomorrow, still has the bank balance of a golfing superstar, courtesy of the sponsorship deals he signed several seasons ago, when everyone could still see Major titles on the horizon for El Nino.

Garcia has endured intense frustration in the past couple of seasons, even taking a 10-week break from playing golf after the US PGA Championship, though he found a measure of comfort in his role as European vice-captain at the Ryder Cup.

With FedEx Cup winner Jim Furyk and Colombian ace Camilo Villegas both joining the huge pack of Tour professionals on the TaylorMade books this season, it remains to be seen if adidas will persist with Garcia as their poster boy when his contract comes up for renewal next year.

He first left Titleist for TaylorMade/adidas in 2007 and despite banking just $1.5m in prize money in 2010, Garcia rides surprisingly high at 11th place in the Golf Digest top 50 earners thanks to estimated off-course earnings of $10.5m.

His fortune is made up largely of lucrative endorsement deals with the likes of adidas, Omega watches, Michelob Ultra beer and Bolle eyewear.

Meanwhile, Garcia collaborated with Greg Norman in designing the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio and is contracted to work with the Australian on the putative Wind Course on Jumeirah Golf Estates in cash-strapped Dubai.

Yet El Nino's earning power will start to dwindle, and fast, if he doesn't return to winning ways on the golf course.

Irish Independent