Sunday 22 April 2018

Golden oldies' success bodes well for Harrington's hopes of rolling back years

Padraig Harrington is still one of the best-conditioned players on tour
Padraig Harrington is still one of the best-conditioned players on tour

Karl MacGinty

IT says much about modern professional golf that Thomas Bjorn's caddie stood to earn more in Sunday's Nedbank Challenge than players Stuart Manley and Prom Meesawat did by making it into the play-off at the Hong Kong Open.

It's customary for Tour caddies to be paid a bonus of 10pc of the prize money for a tournament win. Given the whopping €917,700 first-place cheque in Sun City, it's reasonable to assume Bjorn's highly accomplished English caddie, Phil 'Wobbly' Morbey, was due a €91,770 share.

That figure by far exceeds the €82,894 banked by Manley and Meesawat after they forced Miguel Angel Jimenez all the way to sudden death in an event also co-sanctioned by the European Tour.

Just 30 played in the select field at the $6.5m Nedbank, against the 138 who competed for a 'paltry' $1.3m at Fanling.

It was hardly surprising, therefore, that four-time Hong Kong champion Jimenez was the solitary member of the world's elite top 50 to tee it up there, while Dane Thorbjorn Olesen was the only other player from the top 100.

How can Hong Kong attract name players (and, by extension, sponsorship) in a direct clash with the Nedbank and Tiger's World Challenge in California?

By allowing even a proportion of the prize money at the Nedbank to count towards the Race to Dubai and in the chase for Ryder Cup places, the European Tour has skewed both.

For example, the 795,338 points Bjorn accrued on Sunday is greater than the first prize Matteo Manassero won at the Tour's showpiece BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth!

This by no means detracts from the achievement of Bjorn (42) in Sun City nor that of Jimenez (49), already the oldest winner in European Tour history following his victory in Hong Kong last year.

Impressive wins by so many men in their 40s, including Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Darren Clarke at the last three British Opens, augur well for Padraig Harrington, at 42 still one of the best-conditioned players on tour.

With Harrington insiders reporting his satisfaction at an improvement in his short game and putting in the latter weeks of a frustrating season, watch out for the Dubliner in the new year.

Incidentally, this week's Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban has been brought forward to tomorrow and finishes on Saturday, to allow for proper observance of Mr Mandela's state funeral on Sunday.

Irish Independent

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