Harrington and Woods among contenders for 'richest prize in sport'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In the week in which the European Tour announced it was having to slash back the prize money at their season-ending spectacular to the giddying tune of $5m, Padraig Harrington will have a shot at winning more than twice that amount at the equivalent climatic tournament in America. So much for the financial crisis about to bring golf to its knees.

Indeed, the only thing that looks likely to bring golf to its knees in the forthcoming days in Atlanta are pockets which will bulge so outrageously they will surely not even have room for tee-pegs. Some 30 PGA Tour professionals have made it through to the Tour Championship, the final of the four events which form the FedEx Cup. And get this, the poor sap who finishes last in the standings takes home $175,000. Not to mention whatever he picks up in the tournament itself.

Yes, that's right there are two purses for the pros to compete for at East Lake Golf Course - the $35m FedEx Cup bonus and the $7.5m for the Tour Championship proper. The latter will go along way to dictating the former and in this respect the competitors will have to be even more calculating than usual out on the course. As a qualified accountant Harrington will have no problems on this score, or, indeed, in realising the financial relevance of his score.

In fact, the maths are relatively straight-forward if he is to collect what the Americans like to call "the richest prize in sport". He has to triumph in Georgia and hope that Tiger Woods does not finish in outright second. Despite Woods's continued predominance, his chance is alive. As the only player who has finished in the top 10 of all three FedEx Cup events so far, Harrington has the form and the confidence. He also possesses the incentive.

Yesterday he claimed it would turn 2009 into "a positive year" after it threatened to be so forlorn as he ripped up his swing and lost all semblance of form. But he was honest enough to admit the other reasons why it would be precious. "There are 10 million of them," he laughed. "I do believe with the money that's on the line this week it would have an effect on the 18th hole. Actually it would $11 and a half million in all. That's a lot of money. I could stand here and tell you, 'no, the money wouldn't affect me - I wouldn't think about it at all'. But I'd be telling lies."

The Dubliner is not an ostentatious man by nature - anything but - yet he sees no reason for golf to be embarrassed of these staggering sums. "I believe they should give out the cash on the 18th green," said Harrington. "Just sit it there just to have a good look at it. It would be great, like the World Series of Poker. We could take it in a wheelbarrow up to the clubhouse. Anything that falls out, it's the caddie's."

His attitude to this extreme dollar-fest reminds me of the press conference at Wentworth a few years ago when the first prize at the World Match Play had just reached £1m, and Ernie Els was asked for his views. Asked one inquistor : "Ernie, two questions. A. Do you think this a ridiculous amount for one man to be winning for knocking around a little white ball? And B. Would you feel entirely comfortable with being that man?" To which Els replied: "Yes and yes."

To be ashamed would be to deny the event's meaning. When the play-off notion was first dreamt up by Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour's commissioner, he envisaged the finale as rivalling the majors for tension. He figured the only way this could happen is by substituting the prestige and tradition with a mid-blowing cheque, one which make the viewer sit up and scream "how much?" as Harrington hovers his £11.5m bum-clencher. Except it did not turn out that way. It was always going to involve a complex system and for the first couple of years it was possible for a golfer to have the $10m in the bag before the "decider" had even teed off.

Vijay Singh did just that last year - Finchem handing over the row of noughts as the Tour Championship was still be being played out - while the year previous Woods felt so sure of prevailing, he skipped one of the play-off events. Evidently this was not quite the mad dash to the end of the rainbow, Finchem had in mind. For Woods and Singh it was more of a stroll to the cashpoint. And just as exciting to watch.

They have updated the process this year, so radically that any player in Atlanta has, at least, a mathematical hope of netting the $10m on Sunday. In truth, however, those such as England's Luke Donald, down in 28th place, must win and then pray a collection of numbers fall in place, the order on which Camelot wouldn’t give odds. Perhaps just the top eight have a realistic shot and, in sixth, Harrington is Europe's only hope of bringing home the loot.

Some of yesterday's headlines suggested the beleaguered golfing continent is desperate for it. Hardly. In two months time, the top 60 European tour players will be competing for $15m in Dubai and despite some reports the Tour is adamant their own curtain-dropping wallet-opener is safe for five years. Everything is relative. Except, it seems, prime-time golf and the recession.



FedEx Cup top 10 (points reset after last event; US unless stated)): 1 T Woods 2,500pts; 2 S Stricker 2,250; J Furyk 2,000; Z Johnson 1,800; 5 H Slocum 1,600; P Harrington 1,400; 7 S O’Hair, 1,200; 8 S Verplank 1,000; 9 K Perry 800; 10 J Dufner, 600. Others: 14, P Mickelson 420; 22 E Els (SA) 290; L Donald (Eng) 230.

Tour Championship: The winner will receive 2,500pts, 1500 for 2nd, 1000 for 3rd, 750 for 4th, 550 for 5th, with a sliding scale all the way down for 205pts for 30th.

What they have to do win: Anyone in the top five only has to win to be sure of $10m FedEx Cup bonus. If Harrington wins then Woods has to finish no better than a tie for second.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss