x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Earnings miss the fair way

Never has the prize winnings divide between men's and women's golf been better illustrated than in Dubai over the past three weeks.

Denmark’s Iben Tinning on her way to victory and a US$100,000 pay-day at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Denmark’s Iben Tinning on her way to victory and a US$100,000 pay-day at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.

Countless hours of my debating time have been spent in recent years presenting a vehement but vain argument against women tennis players reaping the same financial rewards as their male counterparts on their travels around the world.

There is no need, however, for such sexist debate in golf and there is not likely to be in the foreseeable future judging by what has become an enormous earnings gulf between the leading exponents of the men's and women's game.

Never has that great divide been better illustrated than in Dubai over the past three weeks as the European Tour and its female equivalent ended their seasons here.

Not only were the Dubai World Championship and Dubai Ladies Masters titles at stake at the Earth and Majlis courses, respectively, but on each occasion the honour of finishing top of the respective money lists went down to the wire.

Taking the acclaim for tournament victories were the Scandinavian duo of Robert Karlsson and Iben Tinning, both of whom welcomed a return to the winner's enclosure after barren spells.

Sweden's Karlsson, whose sharpness in recent times has been blunted by eye and injury problems, banked US$1.25million (Dh4.59m) for edging out Ian Poulter in a play-off at the end of the men's event.

Denmark's Tinning, who had not won on tour for five years, took home $100,000 after holing the clinching birdie putt which enabled her to hold of the challenge of Sweden's Anna Nordqvist.

It was a wonderful way for Tinning to bring the curtain down on a career which has been hampered this year by a niggling hip injury.

Significantly, she said the biggest prize of her career would not go on luxury purchases but would help towards paying off the mortgage as she and her husband, Lasse, prepare for a more normal married life with their young son, Mads.

Turning to the key side issues of the orders of merit: the men's tour's Race to Dubai boiled down to a two-man tussle between Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell, while the women's Henderson Money List was between Lee-Anne Pace and Laura Davies at the final hurdle.

Germany's Kaymer safely kept Northern Ireland's McDowell at bay over the last four days of the men's season and picked up the bonus prize of $1.5m for ending the year as Europe's official No 1.

That enabled the man who endorsed his status among the world's elite by winning the US PGA Championship in August to inform his bank manager that earnings for the year (collated mainly in euros) had risen to a phenomenal $5.9m from 22 tournament appearances around the world.

Pace, who always had the measure of Davies in their private battle well down the Ladies Masters field, has competed in 25 events to accumulate her 2010 stash of euros which equates to $450,000.

There is no doubt that the galleries who flock to the most famous venues in the game do so to witness the skills of household names like Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood rather than Jiyai Shin and Cristie Kerr, the relatively low-profile figures at the top of the women's rankings.

But do the spin-offs to the stars who attract those crowds really have to be as starkly contrasting as they are today?

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The European Tour provided three of the four major champions in a year which peaked with their Ryder Cup triumph over the United States.

Two of those champions - Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer - were recognised with the joint award of European player of the year for 2010.

The third, Louis Oosthuizen, however, has laboured under his new elite status and suffered the ignominy of a missed cut on his native South African soil last week.

The highest ranked player on view in the line-up for the Alfred Dunhill championship, Oosthuizen went home without a pay cheque when he slipped to the wrong side of the dividing line after incurring a bizarre penalty for moving his ball during a practice swing.

Rusty after tearing ankle ligaments in a hunting accident, he tries again to give his home fans something to cheer in the South African Open, which starts today.

Oosthuizen, who won the British Open by a country mile in July, has used the five-year worldwide exemption he earned for that St Andrews triumph to try his hand on the US PGA Tour.

The big fear is that entering comparatively unknown territory will take him deeper into a sticky patch, rather than lift him out of it. A potentially sad conclusion to that adventure is him reviewing that decision at the end of the campaign in the same way as higher-rated Rory McIlroy did a few weeks ago.

 

wjohnson@thenational.ae