| Ernie Els with the World Match Play trophy on Sunday. (AP)
London: Golf’s gravy train took its scheduled stop at Wentworth last week when £1 million ($ 1.68 million) was on offer for four day’s work at the World Match Play championship — but no one wanted to know. That’s a little unfair actually.
A 12-strong field for the jackpot first prize did include the likes of Chad Campbell, Stephen Leaney, Len Mattiace and Tim Clark but, without being too unkind, their ability to sink the putts is not yet matched by their ability to pull the crowds.
True, world No. 2 Ernie Els and third-ranked Vijai Singh did lift the field beyond mediocrity but, for the most part, it wasn’t a case of the Who’s Who of golf in action last week. It was more just Who'
If the old saying that everyone has their price is true then the lesson of last week’s World Match Play is that sponsors will need to dig much, much deeper into their pockets — in the short term at any rate — to attract the somebodies rather than the relative nobodies of golf.
Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Davis Love III, to name but three high-profile Americans, have all become rich enough to suit themselves rather than their bank managers and a million quid first prize is evidently not large enough to tempt them from hearth and home.
All of them qualified to challenge for a record winner’s cheque in European golf, but all three cried off from a trip to Wentworth with various excuses. And this in a tournament organised by Woods’ own management company, IMG.
The trio’s absence did not draw official comment from sponsors, backing the event for the first time, but it must have caused their executives to squirm in a week when they announced 4,000 job losses to cut global company costs.
First-round losers at Wentworth, meanwhile, were walking away with £75,000 apiece.
How long golf’s pampered elite can turn their noses up to earnings that would turn chief executives of blue chip companies green with envy is anybody’s guess.
Both the US and European Tours have somehow continued along their merry, champagne-laden ways to build bigger purses year-on-year while the rest of the business world has been forced to lay off staff and slash costs as recession hits.