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Padraig Harrington defying credit crunch

By Karl MacGinty

After a nondescript start to 2010, Padraig Harrington has tumbled eight places down the world rankings and out of the top-10 — to No 13 to be precise.

A fortnight ago, newspaper headlines suggested he'd been’'dumped' by one of his sponsors, Bank of Ireland.

And Harrington hasn't won in the international arena since clinching his third Major title, the US PGA Championship, at Oakland Hills 19 months ago.

Though a tournament victory is long overdue for the 38-year-old and, clearly, he was disappointed not to pick up a win on Tour in 2009, Harrington remains one of the biggest earners and most powerful players on the world stage.

Indeed, the decision of Bank of Ireland not to take up an option to renew their three-year deal with him when it expires in May illustrates how Harrington has outgrown a shrunken sports sponsorship market in his homeland. The bank effectively hit the jackpot when they struck that three-year deal with Harrington in May 2007 — and more power to them.

Within weeks, he'd win the Irish Open; within a couple of months, he'd become a Major champion at Carnoustie and within a year and a half had carved a place in history as the only European to win the British Open and US PGA in the same season.

Though bonuses reputedly swelled the cost to Bank of Ireland from €250,000 to €400,000 per annum, the deal still represented massively good value. To embroider one's name on the front of a multiple Major champion's sweater and to have him for three corporate outings a year would normally cost several times that amount.

For example, when Harrington entered a three-year ‘partnership' with leading US business consultancy FTI in November 2008, there were no objections when the media guesstimated its worth at $12m.

Yes, that's $4m a year, for which FTI get pride of place on the front of the Irishman's hat; several opportunities each year for staff and clients to play golf with the affable Irishman, and his participation in a range of TV and other media promotions.

Several weeks later, Wilson Golf revealed that they called in their parent company to help drum up the reported $10m it

took to extend their association with Harrington for another 36 months and establish him as an ambassador for the company's sports equipment on a par with Roger Federer.

Harrington banked just €14,006 on Sunday as he finished The Honda Classic tied 40th with Rory McIlroy on four-over, 17 strokes behind hugely impressive winner Camilo Villegas. Yet that modest sum pushed his career prize-money over the €34m mark, and the Irishman has earned at least that much again, if not more, off the course during 12 years as a professional.

Since he's signed contracts worth well in excess of €20m in the 19 months since his US PGA win, it's safe to assume that Harrington's gross income is approaching the €70m mark, with little sign of his corporate value being eroded by recession.

Harrington conceded last summer, during the depths of the world financial slump, that some of his personal investments inevitably had taken a hit.

“I'm like everybody else, looking at investments down 25pc and thinking, hey, that's okay,” he said at that time. “The greatest plus for somebody like me compared to someone on the street is that I have an earnings potential going forward and would be able to sustain ups and downs.

“The fact that I've got positive income streams is always a good way of looking at it.

“As somebody said to me the other day, birdies are recession-proof.”

Harrington certainly hasn't made enough birdies recently but he's a notoriously slow and skittish starter.

With just 10 rounds of stroke play and 17 holes of match play under his belt since his return last month from an eight-week midwinter break, it's too early to judge the Dubliner's form.

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