The rise of PGA Tour purses and the top earners on golf’s premier circuit

By the end of the 2023 season, Scottie Scheffler had become the first PGA Tour golfer to earn over $20m in a single year.

Jump To: PGA Tour All-Time | 2024 Season

Scheffler’s final total of $21,014,342 smashed the previous record by almost 50%, and he set that year before. This is despite winning half the number of tournaments and achieving half the number of second-place finishes he had in 2022. Given that he is already at over $18.5m for the season and we are only in April, you probably won’t get very good odds on him beating that again this year.

The meteoric rise in purses on the PGA Tour in recent years was necessary to combat the prize money offered on the LIV tour. There, each tournament winner gets $4m and even the last placed finisher earns $50,000, with no threat of cuts. Those figures are similar to the recently completed PGA signature event, The Genesis Invitational. However, 19 players in that event, including notable names such as Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Thomas, and Wyndham Clark, missed the cut and weren’t paid at all. That was a Signature Event in the tour’s reimagined calendar for 2024.

Another week, another win, and another jacket for Scottie Scheffler.

In the recent Houston Open, a regular PGA Tour event, 109 players earned under $50,000 (including those cut). Only 35 earned more. It is also worth highlighting that the LIV Tour operates three-round tournaments instead of four, so those prize monies are achieved with 75% of the work of that on the PGA Tour. Scale the prize money, and only 27 players earn more than the guaranteed LIV payout. If you have to be in the top 19% of a PGA Tour field to earn more than just playing on LIV, no wonder players are making the jump.

Every week the sports sections were awash with names changing tours throughout 2021. The initial opinion was that the players going for a guaranteed payday were those who couldn’t hack it on the PGA Tour anymore. That was before the major winners. Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Cameron Smith are just some who all made the jump. Phrases such as ‘Is this the end of the PGA Tour?’ were thrown around.

Some people hated The Hundred and said we didn’t need another short-form cricket format. The attendances speak for themselves. The Tour was worried and thankful for those names who chose to remain and Rory McIlroy became the poster boy. He was the most outspoken player against LIV, and Season 2 of Full Swing showed how hurt he was by the merger of the two tours. Whether his pursuit of some compensation for those who remained will come to fruition remains to be seen.

Winning prize money in PGA Tour Signature Events (2021 v 2024)

The PGA Tour had to do something to entice players to stay. Naturally, that was to appeal to them financially. A career at the top of the world’s game is not a long one, and with the prospect of a career-limiting injury only ever as far as the next swing away, it’s no surprise that players have the desire to make as much as possible as quickly as possible. After all, nobody knows what is around the corner.

The prize money on the PGA Tour has been marginally increasing over the years, but nothing like its rise since 2021. The Tour’s Signature Events more than doubled the winning prize money in the last three years. The PLAYERS is a perfect example, with the prize money increasing by less than $1m between 2004 and 2019 before shooting up to the current winning prize fund of $4.5m in 2023. Having won the last two PLAYERS Championships, Scottie Scheffler has earned $9m from that event alone.

Scottie Scheffler made history as the first golfer to successfully defend The Players and took home a huge winner's cheque in the process.

The Major story

It’s worth highlighting a similar story when it comes to the majors. After only edging up by around $500,000 over seven years, the pot has jumped by over $1m in the last four. The question is, do they have the same lure they once did? Sure, the number of major wins is the first talking point when looking at a player’s career and everyone wants a green jacket, but the money is not there. You can win more at Signature Events and almost as many FedExCup points too, just 50 less. The trouble is, those premier tournaments on tour are only open to fields of 70-80 players. They also have different entry criteria that take into account wins in previous seasons as well as current form.

If you include the majors and the heavily reduced fields in the FedEx Cup playoffs, there are 39 events this year. Take out the majors, The PLAYERS, the three FedEx Cup playoffs, and the eight signature events that aren’t open to everybody, leaving just 23 opportunities to earn money. You have to be in the top 65 (plus ties) after the first two rounds to earn a pay cheque. That’s not in a reduced field of 70-80 players; that’s in a field of up to 156. More than half the field goes home with nothing. They’ve still had to pay to travel to the course, stay nearby somewhere booked for the whole week in case they are playing at the weekend, pay their caddie, buy food, and perhaps have a hired car. The perils of all those expenses and not making the cut weigh heavily on many players’ minds.

Winning prize money in regular season PGA Tour events (2021 v 2024)

So what has happened in those 23 ‘regular’ events? The above chart shows you. Take the Farmers Insurance Open as an example. 2021’s winner Patrick Reed took home $1,350,000. The last-placed player to make the cut, Grayson Murray, went away with $14,025. This year Matthieu Pavon won $1,620,000 with his win. Brandt Snedeker won $16,920. It’s an increase, but nowhere near that seen for the ramped-up Signature Events and Majors.

Let’s delve into the financial aspect. Renting an Airbnb near Torrey Pines for example costs about $1250. A caddie’s wage is around $2000, and a hire car adds another $300. The tournament entry fee is approximately $750. That’s nearly $4500 before you even consider food, other necessities, and the potential fees to alter bookings if plans change. For a player who doesn’t consistently make the cut, these expenses can be a significant burden. Additionally, you need to fly yourself, your team, and your clubs to numerous locations during the year. If you only make one cut a month, you’re barely going to break even.

Scheffler and caddie Ted Scott have a special relationship.

Ultimately, has the PGA Tour significantly increased the purses of every event to ensure every golfer can make a comfortable living? The answer is no. However, it has amplified big tournament purses, seemingly prioritizing the satisfaction of those with a global presence who often make international headlines. This focus on the big tournaments, while understandable from a business and media perspective, does create a disparity in the distribution of resources.

But the facts are the facts. It is possible to win significantly more in one tournament today than some of the greatest the game has ever seen earned in their entire careers. With more tournaments and increased purses, we can expect to see new names reaching the top ten in the all-time money list in the years to come. This potential for change and growth in the sport is exciting, and we’re already seeing a real mix of the old and new among the top ten PGA Tour money leaders, with an unsurprising name at the top.

Tiger was first spotted in Sun Day Red golf shoes ahead of his Genesis Invitational return.

PGA Tour All-Time Money Leaders

10. Scottie Scheffler – $61,258,464

He started this season in the high 20s on the career money list but with more than $18.5m already this season Scottie Scheffler is now in the top 10. His performances have been insane. His to par score is -76 across those five tournaments and it doesn’t appear as though he is slowing down any time soon. Perhaps the rest of the field are hoping his upcoming lack of sleep will hinder his performances! Scheffler has always had a habit of hitting form at the right time, his maiden win was just two months before his first green jacket and he won twice more between the two. The question is how high up this list can he get by the end of the season? If he keeps going like this he could easily be in the top five.

9. Jordan Spieth – $62,303,604

Jordan Spieth was a young prodigy on the PGA Tour, bursting onto the scene in 2013. He won the John Deere Classic in his first year as a professional and had three runner-up places in that first year, taking home almost $4m. What followed was a further 10 PGA Tour wins before his 24th birthday. These included the 2015 Masters, US Open and TOUR Championship and 2017 Open. 2015 was a superb year for Spieth. He had four runner-up placings to accompany the five wins and earned over $12m for the year, followed by a $5.5m and $9.4m season.

Jordan Spieth is one of the most influential golfers in the world.

8. Justin Rose – $62,528,891

What do you best know Justin Rose for? His heroics in the blue of Team Europe, winning the Ryder Cup on four occasions? For becoming the first Olympic gold medalist in golf for 112 years? Justin Rose is a player who has quietly gone about his business over several years. The 2013 US Open Champion secured $1.44m for his one-over par, two-shot victory at Merion. That one and only major came in the middle of a period of great consistency for the Englishman, who won at least one tournament a year for six years between 2010 and 2015, earning just shy of $25m in that time. Follow that up with a win at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Championship and the Fort Worth Invitational in 2018, worth $1.6m and $1.2m respectively, and the career prize money steadily builds up.

7. Adam Scott – $64,420,990

Scott is number seven on the list and the only Australian to wear the coveted green jacket. His Masters win in 2013 came just a month before the announcement that anchored strokes would be banned. Sinking his birdie putt on the second playoff hole gave him prize money of just a few thousand short of $1.5m, and he would go on to win the same amount at The Barclays a few months later. In 2016, back-to-back wins at The Honda Classic and World Golf Championships, as well as the Cadillac Championships, would add another $1.7m to his account. Not one to grab the headlines on many occasions but always there, Scott finished in the top ten more than 25% of the time on average, and steadily built up a healthy career purse as a result.

6. Vijay Singh – $71,281,216

Vijay Singh is the first name on the list of the ‘older’ generation. We use that term loosely, but the Fijian is another who had many years of success on the PGA Tour. Most notably, Singh had a three-year spell between 2003 and 2005 in which he won 17 times and had 9 runner-up placings, taking home over $26m. His most successful year was in 2004, winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Shell Houston Open, HP Classic of New Orleans, Buick Open, PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship, Bell Canadian Open, 84 Lumber Classic and the Chrysler Championship. $1m was the prize for only one of those wins. That was the PGA Championship, making his career total all the more impressive compared to today’s totals.

Vijay Singh was the oldest golfer to reach World No.1.

5. Jim Furyk – $71,507,269

Jim Furyk won 17 times on the PGA Tour between his first event as a professional in 1993 and his last in April 2023. With a single major, Furyk is a name that might surprise you as being number five on this list, but his reasoning for being there can be summed up by a single word. Consistency. Remarkable consistency. Throughout his career, which spanned over 630 PGA Tour events, Furyk made over 80% of cuts and finished in the top three in more than 10%. Even so, he only made over $5m a season three times in his career. His most successful came in 2006 with wins at the Wachovia Championship and Canadian Open and second places at the Verizon Heritage, Buick Open and TOUR Championship, earning him $7.2m for the year. 

4. Dustin Johnson – $75,417,837

At four is Dustin Johnson. Like Furyk, his money has come from playing consistent golf for an extended period. Between 2008 and 2021, Johnson won at least one event on tour every year before moving across to LIV. His most recent victory, the 2020 Masters, came with a $2m prize. Johnson found great success in the late 2010s, missing only ten cuts in six seasons, and as a result, his earnings were over $5m for seven years in a row. Three of those years had prize pots in excess of $8m. His most successful year was 2016, winning the US Open, World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational and the BMW Championship, taking home more than $1.5m for each.

3. Rory McIlroy – $85,410,730

The 2022-23 season was the most successful for McIlroy on the PGA Tour in terms of money, earning just shy of $14m. He had two wins, one at the CJ Cup and one at the Scottish Open. He also bagged a couple of second places at the US Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, earning half of his year’s takings. A third place at the World Matchplay bagged another $1.5m. The wins have helped boost his earnings, but the increased prize funds the PGA have been forced to place on events after the emergence of LIV have also played a factor. McIlroy’s earnings have tripled in PGA events since LIV was founded.

2. Phil Mickelson – $96,644,310

It used to be Tiger v Phil on the course. Now it’s Rory v Phil off the course. During the late 1990s and early 2000s a generation of golfers now on the tour grew up watching Phil Mickelson battle with Tiger. Those same golfers then picked a side when Phil went to LIV and became its big name. Mickelson only competed in the majors last year, finishing in a tie for second at Augusta and taking home $1.5m in the process. Although Mickelson didn’t enjoy the long period of dominance that Tiger had, wins were consistent, and so to were the earnings. Over $5m was won by Mickelson in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013.

Phil Mickelson continues to be an influential figure in the world of golf.

1. Tiger Woods – $120,999,166

There would only ever be one name at the top of this list. Arguably the greatest of all time. With 82 wins on the PGA Tour, 31 runner-up placings and top-ten finishes in over half of the events entered, not to mention his 15 major titles; Tiger leads the all-time money rankings by over 20 million dollars. His last victory at the Zozo Championship came 23 years after his first, his three-shot victory earning $1.755m. The prize money increase is evident compared to his first tour victory at the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic, which earned him just $216,000. His first green jacket in 1997 came with a $486,000 cheque, less than a quarter of the one he won in 2019. Of course, his career earnings are much higher than this figure, which is just for what he earned on the course. A game of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004, anyone? We also know you read that in Andrew Anthony’s voice.

A deeper dive into Tiger’s winnings

What makes Tiger’s significant lead at the top of the career money leaders so impressive is the period in which he accumulated a chunk of his wins. Victories in the mid-2000s earned him an average of $10m a year, but with 17 wins in 1999 and 2000, how much more would he have earned had those wins come with modern-day purses? If we examine the six tournaments Tiger won in 2000 that are still on the calendar and compare his winnings 24 years ago to what he would have won in 2023, the result is remarkable. In 2000, these six tournaments won $4,277,150 for Tiger. Those same six tournaments last year would have won him $20,900,000. An increase of 488%.

The money Tiger Woods would have won in 2023 from his wins in 2000

PGA Tour Season money leaders through RBC Heritage

This season, millions of dollars have already been handed out in prize money on the PGA Tour. Here are the top ten money leaders so far in the 2024 season.

12. Will Zalatoris – $3,587,330

It has been a rollercoaster of a year so far for Zalatoris. He’s been cut twice and has three top-five finishes in his eight events in 2024. Fortunately for him, those high finishes came in significant money events at The Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, and The Masters. A T2, T4, and T9 respectively bagged him $3.26m from those events, with just $300,000 coming from other events.

11. Brian Harman – $3,720,438

One of three players who finished a shot back from Scottie Scheffler on that epic Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, Brian Harman won almost $1.9m that week. That was his second top-ten of the year, the first coming at Kapalua where he finished in a tie for fifth. Harman’s progress up the money rankings has been hampered by several poorer results though, with three consecutive finishes outside the top 40.

10. Matthieu Pavon – $3,879,223

Matthieu Pavon turned professional in 2013 and secured his first win on the PGA Tour earlier this year at the Farmers Insurance Open. A birdie on the final hole for a 69 gave him a one-shot victory and $1.62m. In the week following, a third-place finish at Pebble Beach secured another $1.36m, and those two events alone account for three-quarters of his prize money to date this year.

Matthieu Pavon became the first Frenchman to win on the PGA Tour since 1907 at the Farmers Insurance Open.

9. Byeong Hun An – $4,926,267

After a strong start to the season with a fourth-place finish at The Sentry and T2 at the Sony Open, the South Korean’s form dropped off a little before bouncing back with a T4 at The CJ Cup Byron Nelson and third place at the Wells Fargo Championship where he picked up $1.36 million.

8. Chris Kirk – $5,082,371

Beating Sahith Theegala to the top spot in the opening tournament of the year at Kapalua secured Chris Kirk $3.6m. That is the vast majority of his winnings this year. Since that tournament, he has only secured one top-twenty finish, with his purses ranging from $23,000 to $186,000 for his T26th at The PLAYERS.

7. Hideki Matsuyama – $6,007,495

The $4m won by Matsuyama at The Genesis Invitational turned around a disappointing start to 2024 for the 2021 Masters Champion. In his first five events of the year, he averaged around $73,000 per event and just over 100 FedEx Cup points, but a 1st, T12th, and T6th in his last three events have shot him up the money list and the points standings.

6. Ludvig Åberg – $6,511,053

Ludvig Åberg was quietly going about his business this year, finishing in the top ten at big-money events before his second place at Augusta. Earning almost $3m for his second place at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and eighth place at The PLAYERS, Åberg has made the cut in all nine tournaments he has participated in so far in 2024 and will be hoping to add to his lone win on tour at The RSM Classic last November.

5. Rory McIlroy – $6,600,722

Two tournament wins in as many weeks rocketed Rory into the top five of the PGA Tour money list. The Northern Irishman won a cool $3.6 million at the Wells Fargo Championship to add to the $1.28 million he won alongside Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic a week earlier.

Rory McIlroy won the 2024 Wells Fargo Championship by five shots

4. Sahith Theegala – $6,612,228

Sahith Theegala is a player finding form. After coming second at The Sentry with a final round of 63 to finish one shot behind Chris Kirk, Theegala was cut in Hawaii and followed that with a T64th at The Farmers Open. Two top-ten finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The PLAYERS pocketed Theegala just shy of $1.5m in March, and a runner-up spot at the RBC Heritage earned another $2.18m.

3. Xander Schauffele – $7,688,071

Schauffele may feel he is always the bridesmaid and never the bride, but he has quietly secured good results. With five top-five finishes and two top-tens from eight events, Schauffele has been consistently taking home big purses. Another second-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship bumped Xander up the leaderboard.

2. Wyndham Clark – $9,164,429

Quite how Wyndham Clark’s putt on 18 at TPC Sawgrass didn’t drop, denying him a playoff with Scheffler, we’re still unsure. It was a reminder of the fine margins in sports though. The difference those few millimeters made is clear: sharing second spot meant his prize money was almost $1.9m compared to Scheffler’s $4.5m. That was the second week in a row Clark finished behind Scheffler, securing $2.2m for his second place at Bay Hill the week before. His lone win this year came at the shortened AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with a $3.6m prize. 

Wyndham Clark has won three times since May 2023, including the US Open.

1. Scottie Scheffler – $18,693,235

Win, win, tied second, win, win. Scottie has become just the third player in the last 30 years to win or be runner-up in five consecutive PGA Tour events. Keep going Scottie. Winning back-to-back tournaments at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The PLAYERS Championship gave him $8.5m in eight days, and then he came in a tie for second at the Houston Open. In March alone he won over $9m and then he won his second green jacket. Securing two other top-five finishes and two top-ten finishes so far this year, Scheffler has been consistently taking home prize money around the $500,000 mark when he doesn’t win. It’s no wonder he leads the season money list by over $9m. What is the limit for this man?

Honourable mentions

With today’s purses, it is possible to make a lot of money without ever being considered one of the ‘greats’. You can do it without even winning a PGA Tour event. 17 golfers have earned over $10m on the PGA Tour and have not won. While we aren’t going to go through them all here as it could be a whole other piece in itself, it is worth noting that all 17 have earned more than major winners, including Darren Clarke, Danny Willett, Ben Crenshaw, and Lee Trevino.

There are names on that list you probably won’t have heard of, but the number one you definitely will. That spot belongs to Tommy Fleetwood. Always with a huge grin on his face much akin to Daniel Ricciardo in Formula One, Fleetwood has played 131 events on tour and made 109 cuts in those, without ever winning a title. He’s come agonizingly close though. In last year’s RBC Canadian Open Nick Taylor’s 72ft holed eagle putt denied Fleetwood his maiden first win. He had missed putts to win both in the final round and the playoff before falling short on the fourth extra hole. However, he does have two Ryder Cups, and he’ll remember that moment in Italy forever.

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