Skins Game: Did Winning the British Open Save Darren Clarke’s Financial Hide?

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Peter Muhly / AFP / Getty Images

Open champ Darren Clarke poses with the Claret Jug.

Talk about pressure. Pro golfer Darren Clarke entered the last round of the British Open earlier this month with the weight of Irish pride on the line and the knowledge that 42-year-olds generally don’t win golf majors. But he had another albatross on his broad Celtic back: He needed the money.

According to the Daily Mail, Clarke’s victory at Royal St. Georges came in the nick of time. The new British Open champ, it seemed, may have been on the brink of financial disaster.

“The timing could not have been better,” said Chubby Chandler, who manages Clarke. “Darren has had a big cash flow problem.”

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Of course, Clarke wouldn’t be the first international sports figure to face financial ruin. Boxer Mike Tyson, tennis great Bjorn Borg, and former Olympic skating gold medalist Dorothy Hamill, for example, all went broke at one time or another.

Nobody’s saying how dire Clarke’s financial situation was, but the win certainly changes his financial status in a big way. Chandler estimated that Clarke’s immediate cash return on his win was about $4.6 million, a big part of that amount being a $3 million bonus paid by gold equipment manufacturer Dunlop. In 2008, Clarke signed a deal with Dunlop to wear its logo on his shirt. In return, if he ever won one of golf’s major events, the company would pay him the $3 million.

That cash will come in handy after a string of unfortunate business decisions. Chandler told The Daily Mail that Clarke suffered a big financial blow involving the purchase of a private jet along with fellow golfer Lee Westwood. “They bought it when the prices were sky high and sold it with the price at rock bottom,” Chandler explained. He wouldn’t say exactly how much Clarke lost on the deal, but did tell the newspaper “it was an awful lot.”

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Clarke also reportedly took a financial bath on various real estate holdings in the U.K, the U.S., Ireland, and the Middle East.

With over $4 million in his back pocket, and the promise of millions more from sponsorships tied to his historic British Open win, Clarke should be okay.

But having to win the Open to save your financial skin brings with it the financial pressure that weekend duffers playing for $5 a side can only dream about.