Sport Golf

Wednesday 18 September 2019

McIlroy will get less money for winning than for showing up

Rory McIlroy hits a shot in practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy hits a shot in practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photo: Getty Images

James Corrigan

When the enormous cheques being paid to a handful of superstars simply to play in the tournament add up to twice as much as the total prize fund for which the field of 126 will compete, it will inevitably raise the eyebrows.

But this is professional golf and, when it comes to money, nothing should surprise and neither should it horrify, no matter how strong the modern temptation to be morally outraged.

It is understood that the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA - and the sponsor is important in this regard - is paying up to $6 million (€4.9m) in appearance fees.

It is not known exactly how this is being divided. it is believed to be $1.75m (€1.42) for Dustin Johnson and a little less for Rory McIlroy.

How much for Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Martin Kaymer?

They, and others, will all be receiving handsome sums for their presence in the United Arab Emirates this week, where Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell are also in action, and when the champion on Sunday comes to look at his £370,000 (€420,000) first prize, there is a fair chance he will reflect that he got more for merely being there than winning.

Not that he would be moaning. He would be celebrating, along with the European Tour. Tinsel has been scattered all over what otherwise could be a humdrum event and that kudos is heaven-sent, if not HSBC-sent. The sponsors and promoters achieve the publicity and reach they desire as, of course, do the host countries.

The business model works; Abu Dhabi and next week's Desert Classic in Dubai proves it does and it has been working for decades. All the way back to Spalding paying Harry Vardon to conduct his tour of the US.

Since then, both the PGA Tour and European Tour have banned appearance fees in their barest form, but this is easily circumnavigated under the banner of "promotion". Nobody can stop a sponsor from paying Tiger Woods a few million for appearing in an advert or even for handing out the prizes at the Tuesday pro-am.

It happens everywhere, even though the PGA Tour is predictably all sniffy about its non-existent superiority on this issue.

In the main, the other players - those obliged to appear without a fee - do not complain, understanding that the more top pros in an event means the more world ranking points on offer and the bigger the opportunity.

Inevitably, however, there are always the rumbles of dissension and most recently they have come from Eddie Pepperell, the young English pro.

He has been elected to the Tournament Players Committee and said he would like to do away with what some commentators have naively and rather pompously called "golf's dirty secret".

"I just don't like the principle of someone showing up and being paid two or three times more than the winner," Pepperell told 'National Club Golfer'. "I want to play in an environment where you get paid for how you perform, which is the beauty of golf."

In an ideal world, Pepperell would obviously be correct. But even on the murky professional fairways, his desire to see a meritocracy is still satisfied.

The likes of Johnson and McIlroy are paid "for how they perform" week in, week out and it is this consistency and quality of play which makes them such a draw to fans on a global scale. They have their worth and they are worths which were earned.

Not to be rude to Pepperell, but as Jack Nicklaus would say when he would hear other pros complaining about their lot - "play better". It fixes everything.

Meanwhile, Seamus Power is Ireland's sole representative in the field at the Career Builder Challenge in La Quinta, California.

  • Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 3.30
  • Career Builder Challenge, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0

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