Brexit hits Stenson's Open reality cheque

Fall in value of the pound means Swede took home less money than 2015 winner Johnson

LONDON • Henrik Stenson's long wait for a Major title finally came to an end on Sunday and there was a hefty cheque to go with the Claret Jug. But his winnings at Royal Troon would have been greater still, were it not for the Brexit vote.

Although the prize money given to the winner of The Open rose to £1,175,000 (S$2,092,150) this year, some £25,000 more than Zach Johnson collected at St Andrews last year, the fall in the value of the pound means the Swede took home considerably less than Johnson.

By the time he has converted his purse into dollars - Stenson lives in Orlando - he will find that the winnings are some US$245,100 (S$331,330) less than Johnson's take-home pay 12 months ago.

Still, a seven-figure cheque is a handsome pay packet for four days' work, a reward for prevailing in one of the most compelling final rounds seen at a Major.

The Brexit effect on the Troon prize fund will be felt more keenly, though, by European players hovering around the fringes of Ryder Cup selection.

On one of the lists that determines which players qualify as the nine automatic selections at the end of next month, the European points list, one point equates to €1 (S$1.49) of prize money collected during the season.

So those European players who enjoyed a decent payday by finishing towards the top of the leader board at Troon, such as Andy Sullivan, Tyrrell Hatton, Andrew Johnston and Soren Kjeldsen, have not advanced their cause as much as they would have done before the pound plummeted.

Sullivan, the world No. 35 from Nuneaton, finished tied for 12th at Troon to consolidate his place among the top nine that Darren Clarke, the Europe captain, will take to Hazeltine in September.

But he will be hoping for a strong performance in the US PGA Championship, which starts on July 28 at Baltusrol, New Jersey, to prevent him having to look over his shoulder.

Kjeldsen, who finished ninth at Troon, remains on the fringes along with Hatton, knowing that perhaps only a high placing at Baltusrol will give them a chance of breaking into the top nine, knowing too that Clarke's three captain's picks are likely to go to more experienced players.

Stenson's final round of 63 on Sunday, which earned him victory by three strokes over Phil Mickelson, was described by Jack Nicklaus on Monday as "one of the greatest rounds I have ever seen".

The viewing figures for the final-day climax, though, showed the expected sharp drop in the first year of Sky's live coverage of the tournament.

Peak viewing figures on Sunday were around 1.2 million, compared with the 4.7 million who watched Johnson's victory on the BBC on the extra day at St Andrews last year.

Gareth Lord, Stenson's caddie, from Coventry, said that he would be giving up smoking, keeping his part of a bargain if Stenson were to win a Major.

"We were on the seventh tee, I was drawing on a cigarette and Henrik said, 'Enjoy that. You have about two and a half hours left'," Lord said.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Brexit hits Stenson's Open reality cheque'. Print Edition | Subscribe