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What does winning a Major championship mean for Clarke?

If golf wasn’t such a wildly profitable way to spend one’s time, Padraig Harrington would still be an accountant and Darren Clarke a roguish international playboy. Wait a second…

How much?
How much?
Image: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

DARREN CLARKE’S LIFTING of the Claret Jug on yesterday evening ended the Dungannon man’s 20-year hunt for a major championship and provided what will likely prove a fitting coda to a career spent at the pinnacle of European golf.

For all of its misty-eyed euphoria and sense of communal relief, however, this was a victory absent sport’s most romantic narrative: the rags-to-riches triumph.

Even before the final round of this year’s Open got underway, Clarke had, in a career spanning a little over two decades, already amassed over €20million in prize money. Two World Golf Championships victories in the early part of the last decade, including an historic victory over Tiger Woods in the WGC Matchplay Championship, even go so far as to ensure that yesterday’s first prize of £900,000 is not even the largest of his career.

Clarke may be no stranger to pocketing (and spending) vast sums of money, then, but yesterday’s victory marks his crossing of the threshold separating golf’s merely big names, the Luke Donalds and Lee Westwoods of the world, from its enduring names. Winning a major is a guarantee of your place in history and, when charisma and title-winning collide, unswerving bankability. Estimates may vary, but a contemporary major win, in this, the mega-corporate era of the FeEx Cup and the routine million-dollar prize, is thought to be worth somewhere between $5m and $7m.

In Clarke’s case, his equipment sponsors, Taylor Made and Dunlop, will undoubtedly pair a couple of hefty, seven-figure bonuses with improved terms, or risk being outbid by predatory competitors.

Other bonuses, from peripheral endorsements with Stubart (a golf shoe manufacturer) and a host of golf resorts will bring their own, more minor rewards. Most crucially, however, Clarke’s victory secures his place in the upper echelon of international golf for the forseeable future, not only giving him access to the most lucrative and exclusive tournaments, but invitations to countless off-season exhibitions (golf’s so-called ‘silly season’). For the next couple of years at least, he can also expect to command an appearance fee well in excess of the basic six figures.

A run on the banks?

Not a bad way for a greying 42-year-old to end his career, you might say, but hold on a second: should Clarke manage to win another major, the process isn’t just repeated, it’s accelerated. Padraig Harrington’s success at the 2007 Open Championship may have completed his five-year quest to crack the major club, but his additional two victories the following year made him a household name, the sort of sportsman capable of maintaining a private jet (even if it was second-hand) and shrugging off a fairly catostrophic multi-million euro investment.

This year’s Sunday Times Rich List, though it’s reasoning may be more than a trifle suspect, estimated Harrington’s worth to be somewhere in the region of £32m.

But even if that second, private jet-winning major should prove elusive, it’s still unlikely that Clarke will find himself travelling in coach anytime soon.

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