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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: Money has skewed golf so much that now even the lavish Dunhill seems quaint

Rory McIlroy and his father Gerry McIlroy at the Dunhill Links last week.
Rory McIlroy and his father Gerry McIlroy at the Dunhill Links last week.

It says something about the modern world of golf that the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2022 now seems almost quaint.

Yes, it’s still worth a handsome $5 million in total. Personally I think that the public in general tune out about these ludicrous numbers once you get past six zeroes. But I’m assured that detailing prizefunds in minutiae is a surefire thing for the old digital hits.

But in doing that study last week I’d forgotten – overlooked more like – the prizemoney at the ADLC has remained absolutely static since Paul Lawrie won the first one in 2001.

Golf inflation is much higher than normal inflation

Using normal inflation – even before the present government’s recent contributions – for the 20 years hence, it really should be worth about $8.3m now.

In golf inflation, if you take the rise in prizemoney at the Open Championship from 2002 to now as a guide, the ADLC should be worth $11.67m in 2022.

I can’t give you a LIV Golf inflation figure because there’s really nothing to compare it to from 2001.

In its original year, the Dunhill cash was considered massive. Lawrie’s winning cheque of $816,000 in 2001 was more than double what he won for his Open title two years previously (Ryan Fox won the exact same $816,000 for his win on Sunday).

The Open “caught up” and passed the Dunhill money as quickly as 2002. The prizefund for the 150th Open at St Andrews this year was a whopping $14 million. That only made it fourth out of four in the majors in payout.

Of course, the millions from the Saudi regime’s sovereign investment fund pouring into LIV this year have skewed the money market in golf beyond measure. So much so that the Dunhill, which seemed ridiculously lavish 20 years ago, looks downright modest now.

So we have the almost ludicrous situation that we can, quite properly, regard the multi-millionaires of golf playing with their families or the mega-successful millionaires of the business and entertainment world as almost life-affirming.

The real meaning of golf?

Matt Fitzpatrick playing with his Mum and Rory McIlroy with his Dad last week, for example. Enthusiastic celebs like Bill Murray or Piers Morgan and the swathe of sports stars, CEOs, financiers and the like battling through Friday’s driving rain and wind for the pure love of game. The heart bursts.

“This is golf” we heard from all and sundry. Not all that awkward stuff we’ve been arguing about all year.

“The professional game is such a small part of the game of golf.” said Rory. “Golf is so much bigger than all of us and I think people miss that.

“It’s a pure form of the game, playing with your father. Sort of reminding myself where I started and playing at the golf club with him, all that sort of stuff. That’s the real nice thing about this week.”

Absolutely right, of course. I do like Rory as a person, and I think he actually has a decent sense of perspective about these things. I’m not having a go at him personally.

But you can’t ignore that he’s just off winning the almost unthinkable figure of $18m in one event at the end of August.

And that in what will probably be historically considered, after his failure to win The Open in July, a year of disappointment.

It’s a minimum wage, effectively

Meanwhile the PGA Tour is in full swing again. For the first time, as part of the expanded financial package drawn up in response to LIV, they’re paying a flat fee of $500,000 to all card holders for the current season.

This is a safety net. It will be subtracted from future earnings, but each card holder knows that it’s a baseline for his day job. If things go less than well, he’s not going to be struggling.

Just think about it. Half a million dollars. That’s the BASELINE. The minimum wage, effectively.

It’s far more money than most ordinary people will spend in their lifetimes.

I generally do not begrudge golfers – or any other sport stars, really – the vast amounts paid to them. They’re in the entertainment business, and millions are entertained.

The demand sets the level of remuneration, we’re told. But does it, really?

Are they really worth all of this?

Golf’s explosion in money in 2022 has been entirely driven by the elite players’ demands of what they feel they are entitled to. What exactly are we, the consumer, getting back in return?

Were the elite players really underpaid before? Is the sport better, is it more entertaining, the characters more engaging than they were 20 years ago?

To the extent that it really justifies paying out two, three or more times more than it did then? In LIV or the ‘established’ game?

Are the golfing public, the 99 per cent that play the game and buy the equipment and use the sponsor product and pay for the tickets and buy the TV subscriptions that pay for all this, actually getting their moneys’ worth now?

Can anyone really argue that the answer to any of those questions is yes?

So ludicrous as it may sound, as it still represents a lifestyle that is beyond most people’s measure, the Dunhill has actually become a place of perspective in this age of modern golf.

It’s worth exactly the same as it was 20 years ago. And you feel it’s a realistic price.