Jet saves hours and adds years to Pádraig’s career

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON crashed spectacularly in his bid to help his spluttering season reach take-off speed in the WGC Cadillac Championship in Miami.

But while he claimed that the triple bogey seven he racked up on the third hole in the final round at Doral’s Blue Monster did not hurt one bit, he’s definitely flying high when it comes to the management of his affairs.

Unsurprisingly, given the state of the Irish economy and the general hardship currently facing thousands of Irish workers and millions around the globe, the three-time major champion is reluctant to speak publicly about his purchase of a private jet late last year.

The 13-seater Gulfstream III, which is more than 25 years old, cost around €2m. That’s a snip in an era when a three-year-old G5 could cost you €33m.

But that’s not the total extent of the expense by any means.

Harrington must also pay for a full-time crew of two pilots, not to mention the exorbitant fuel costs, which are rising daily.

He’s unlikely to have much change out of €3m a year but this is no frivolous expense by the 39-year old Ryder Cup star.

After his palatial Rathmichael home, the jet is now Harrington’s biggest visible asset. But it is also the key to his efforts to extend his career by another year or possibly two. As the credit card commercials might say, that’s priceless.

His fitness coach, Dr Liam Hennessy, will be by his side again this week at the Transitions Championship in Tampa, monitoring his stress levels and recovery from training.

“Everything I am doing is about extending his longevity in the game,” Dr Hennessy explained in Miami. “That’s what it is all about, making sure that Pádraig can compete at the highest level for as long as possible while remaining injury free.”

Harrington’s position as one of the game’s leading players — despite his current position of 34th in the world rankings, a rise of three places on last week — means he must travel thousands of air-miles each year.

He has already made five transatlantic trips this season, not to mention a long haul trip to the middle east for the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain in January and February.

Flying privately means Harrington can come and go when he wishes and endure the minimum of fuss at airports. He can also sleep in his own bed while airborne, reducing the effects of jet-lag on his body.

When he was eliminated in the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson just over a fortnight ago, he left Arizona at 9pm and was home in Dublin inside 11 hours. Flying commercially, he might have taken close to twice that amount of time had he missed a tight connection.

Gaining a day here and a day there allows Harrington to spend more time recovering at home and enjoying family life, which all adds up to less stress all round. And, hopefully, a few more birdies.

Add to that the ability to take his extended family with him on tour during the summer holidays and the expense is totally justified.

US Open champion Graeme McDowell is eight years Harrington’s junior and while his earning power has quadrupled following his win at Pebble Beach last June, he admits that owning a private jet is beyond him for the moment.

“I am not in the plane leagues just yet,” McDowell said as he dashed to catch a chartered jet home to Orlando from Miami, where he finished tied 42nd after a poor week in the long game department. “Obviously I am a Marquis Jet client and this is the first year where I am going to fly private a lot more and just see how it changes my life.

“I am not a guy who is going to start flying transcontinental private. And I also like to use private jets inside the US to make my life easy.

“I can’t see Pádraig using his plane to fly to Asia but it makes a lot of sense for him to buy one at this stage of his career.

“Jets make a big difference to guys with families because they can travel together and he can also get home quicker to spend more time with them. I would love a jet. But I don’t need one just yet.”

McDowell and his fellow tour stars are sponsored in terms of flying hours by companies such as Marquis Jets. If two or three players are heading for the same destination, they will divide the flying time equally between them, as the Ulster man did with Rickie Fowler following the Accenture Match Play.

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