the luck of the draw or the bounce of the ball can turn tournaments on their heads and previously sane golfers into nervous wrecks.
It may come as something of a surprise that winner Wade Ormsby would probably not have been the highest-paid player in the UBS Hong Kong Open.
While in any 156-man field each week, there can only ever be one winner – ergo 155 ‘Losers’. Surely that fortunate fellow with the lowest number of strokes, brought about by a combination of fine shots, holed putts, fewer and less unfortunate mistakes and a slice or two of good fortune thrown into the mix must walk away on Sunday night. Winner’s speech delivered, photographs posted for, press questions answered, champagne coiffed, champion’s commitments fulfilled as the most highly-financially-rewarded player of the week, first amongst equals.
Except, no, not necessarily so, as with Australian winner of the 2018 seasonopening UBS Hong Kong Open, Wade Ormsby. The leaderboard shows that the 27-year-old from Adelaide won €281,786, around US$355,000 in the lovely greenback lucre worshipped by pro golfers everywhere, by far the biggest pay-day of his career to date, hardly surprising for a maiden victory on the second most valuable circuit on earth.
That’s almost US$200,000 more than each of the four men who finished in a tie for second and shared the second, third, fourth and fifth-place purses. Three, like Ormsby, relatively unknown wannabees, the other, the high-flying young Spanish matador Rafa Cabrera-Bello, 20th on the Official World Golf Ranking, already a member of global golf’s elite club.
But, whilst the man for whom the epitaph ‘Journeyman pro,’ might well have been coined may have recorded the fewest shots over Fanling for four days late last year, it may come as something of a surprise that he would probably not have been the highest-paid.
With reigning Masters champion Sergio García and Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose both persuaded to take a trip to one of the most evocative cities in the world but with a prize fund neither would think of leaving home for. Thanks to the offer of what those practitioners in the dark arts of PR might describe as, ‘A substantial sixfigure sum,’ is far from unrealistic to assume both got almost as much - and arguably more - as Ormsby won for four-days of heated competition in the New Territories, just for turning up.
While the Australian would have had without question - at least 15% withholding tax taken off at the source, the Ryder Cup duo may, through their management agencies, have negotiated a tax-free lump sum. All in
return for image rights, a coaching clinic or two and a few warm words, and many, many more thousands and millions on the gate and the global viewing figures respectively than Ormsby - with the greatest of respect - will draw when he returns as defending champion next year.
Both 2015 champion Rose and García will have had local Hong Kong tax proportion due to their annual worldwide image rights annulled, whereas Ormsby has no such powers to revoke, whilst it’s possible too that the duo’s commissions due to their munificent management companies may also have been paid by the event sponsors/promoters.
All three will have had to pay their caddies, the rate is usually 8%, whilst only the winner would have fallen due to the 10% winner’s bonus to his bagman.
Meanwhile, Rose and García would have been flown by sponsors, most probably first-class, business at worst, from their luxury homes in the tax havens of the Bahamas and Switzerland respectively and put-up in a suite at the five-star ‘Luxury,’ JW Marriott in Central. Ormsby - flying economy and possibly even sharing a room with a similarly ‘impoverished’ player - in the Marriot Courtyard, a case of the princes and the paupers.
Ormsby may well be paid a modest fivefigure sum in advance next time around as defending champion, the man from Adelaide, who leapt 201 places up the OWGR from 319th to 118th with his Hong Kong Open victory needs one big win, or two more modest ones before he’s even at the top table.
The Australian’s immediate aim going into the 2018 season would have been to retain his European Tour playing rights by getting into the top 101 on the Race to Dubai Rankings, something he achieved comfortably ending the 2016/17 season in 83rd place on US$429,500. But ten missed cuts and only four top ten finishes in 27 outings meant he was never going to make the Dubai World Championship or any of the WGC events.
And, with taxes, caddies’ fees, management commissions and heavy week-in, week-out travel and accommodation expenses, halfa-million dollars in a season may sound good. But, in truth, for a European Tour professional golfer, that’s subsistence living.
Beyond that, he can but dream of a PGA TOUR player’s card, top-50 in the OWGR, to become a regular in the WGC events and the ‘Majors,’ where the rich are rich and can barely help themselves get richer still. But, unless or until then, of course, he can rely on the notion that all men remain equal…
Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose may have negotiated a tax-free lump sum appearance fee through his management agency
It is rumoured that reigning Masters champion Sergio García persuaded to take a trip to Hong Kong for a substantial six-figure appearance fee