Golf stars playing for hand-outs

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Justin Rose of England poses with the trophy after beating compatriot Lee Westwood to win the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final .

So let’s talk turkey, and by this I mean what do you think about the so-called World Golf Finals which ended on Friday? The extraordinarily lucrative (for the players, of course) four-day happening took place on the PGA Sultan Course at Antalya Golf Club which, as an aside, is situated right beside the beautiful blue Mediterranean in Belek, Turkey.

It was sponsored by Turkish Airlines and involved eight of the world’s best golfers divided into two groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the semifinals before Justin Rose and Lee Westwood clashed in the tournament’s final (won by Rose).

Billed as an exhibition of top golf, it brought together world No 1 Rory McIlroy, second-ranked Tiger Woods, Westwood, Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer and Hunter Mahan. And Westwood, at the pre-tournament press conference, went on record as saying: “Golf in Turkey and the sport in general will benefit from this new initiative.”

Do me a favour. How can the sport in general benefit from this? What Westwood was really thinking, I reckon, was something like: “Oh boy, our bank managers are going to be delighted about this little hand-out!”

And basically it was a hand-out … a massive one for eight golfers, some of them casually dressed in shorts, having a bit of fun. Even the two players who finished seventh and eighth picked up $300 000. Do the sums and that pans out at about R2,5-million. Fifth and sixth place commanded R3,75m (for just 54 holes, remember), the losing semi-finalists (Schwartzel one of them) received the equivalent of R5m, while there was a monstrous R13m for the winner and a “mere” R8,7m for the runner-up.

Look, I love golf and Westwood certainly turned on the magic when he shot 61 in his medal matchplay last four clash with Schwartzel to beat the South African, who posted a 67 only to find himself on the losing side. But aren’t things getting out of hand when pay-outs of this size are given (“given” is probably closer to the truth than “earned”) to players in what is basically an exhibition, not sanctioned by any of the major tours? It’s almost obscene, especially when you think how world-class competitors in other sports don’t even get a penny for their efforts.

Okay, Rose, Westwood and Co (they certainly won’t have to worry about the price of turkey this Christmas!) will have been only too happy to play for all that money, and you can’t blame them. But somehow, for me at least, it all seemed a little warped. And calling the tournament the World Golf Finals is, surely, a bit over the top.

Anyway, enough complaining. For me, the real deal was being at St Andrews last Sunday to witness Branden Grace winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the iconic Home of Golf. It was his fourth European Tour triumph of 2012 and his fifth overall with his victory in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at Fancourt. At 24, he is an amazing talent. And almost lost in the euphoria of Grace’s win was the record-equalling 10-under-par by George Coetzee in the final round at St Andrews. A 62 on the “grand old lady” that is the Old Course? Old Tom Morris must be turning in his grave. – Saturday Star


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