[Stats] The Paradox of PGA Tour Prize Money Growth

As the U.S. Professional Golf (PGA) Tour heads into its final stretch, LIV Golf has benefited from a major prize money increase for the second year in a row.

Money leader Scottie Schauffler (USA) has earned $21.043 million (28.1 billion won) this season after adding two more victories at the top-tier The Players and WM Phoenix Open. He topped the money list last year with four wins ($14.469 million), but this year he earned more than $6.97 million ($9.3 billion) more than last year. That’s more than 2.5 times the average prize money winner’s earnings of $8.96 million in the 10 years prior to LiveGolf.

U.S. publication Golf Digest compared the money earned by Tour players over the past 12 years in its online edition on Sept. 23.바카라 The season’s prize money tally was finalized last week, as the final event doesn’t count as a bonus.

Jon Rahm (Spain) is second on the money list with $16.52 million after posting four wins on the season, including the Masters. The other players to surpass the $10 million mark were Victor Hovlan (NOR), Rory McIlroy (NI), Wyndham Clarke, Max Homa and Patrick Cantlay (USA) in third through seventh place.

[source=PGA Tour]

In the decade prior to the advent of livegolf two years ago, the only player to top $10 million ($13.4 billion) in prize money was Jordan Spieth (USA), who won two majors in 2015, with $12.03 million. Schaeffler’s prize money in the last two years, more than Tiger Woods’ and McIlroy’s dominant performances, is due to the PGA Tour’s creation of a specialty event against live golf and a significant increase in prize money.

From 2012 to now, the number of tournaments in a season has increased by only two, from 45 to 45, but the season’s total prize money has more than doubled, from $278.5 million then to $554.2 million ($741.9 million) this year. The prize pool surged by nearly $100 million in 2021.

Korean players also enjoyed a record prize pool. Lim Sung-jae, 25, finished 19th on the money list with $6.48 million (8.7 billion won) despite not winning a title. Kim Ju-hyung (21) was 22nd on the money list with $6.26 million (8.4 billion won), and Kim Si-woo (28) was 30th with $5.38 million (7.2 billion won) after winning the Sony Open. Previously, $5 million or more on the PGA Tour was the domain of the top 10, but this year that number has increased to 34th-ranked Taylor Moore (USA).

Lim Sung-jae has earned $8.7 billion in prize money [Photo: Getty Images Korea].

In addition, Ahn Byung-hoon (32) is 49th on the money list with $3.17 million (4.3 billion won), Lee Kyung-hoon (32) is 63rd with $2.42 million (3.2 billion won), and rookie Kim Sung-hyun (25) is 93rd but has earned $1.53 million (2 billion won). The average prize money through 125th place was $3.79 million, up nearly $1 million from the previous year’s $2.84 million.

The publication compared it to previous years, noting that “the tour’s prize money growth has significantly outpaced inflation. In 1983, money winner Hal Sutton (USA) earned $426,000, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated would be $1.38 million today.

Woods’ $8.55 million in 2013 would translate to $11 million today. To put that in perspective, Schauffler’s $21.1 million in prize money this year is 15 times more than Sutton and twice as much as Woods.

What’s clear from these 12 years of prize money statistics is that the higher you are in the rankings, the more you benefit from increased prize money. Last year’s 30th-place finisher, Kyung Hoon Lee, earned $2.5 million, while this year’s 30th-place finisher, Si Woo Kim, earned $5.38 million, a 2.16x increase.

Seven-year change in PGA Tour money (from top to bottom) Blue line 30th place money, yellow line 125th place average, orange line 70th place money, gray line 125th place money.

This year’s 70th-place finisher, Sam Ryder (USA), earned $2.36 million, which is only 1.23 times the $1.91 million Matt Jones (AUS) earned last year. Last year, the 124th-place finisher topped $1 million in prize money, and this year’s 124th-place finisher, Lucas Herbert (AUS), earned $1.01 million. Players in the middle and lower ranks may not have benefited from the increase in prize money.

Next year’s season is likely to be more of the same. Only 70 to 80 players, including the top 50 on this season’s FedExCup rankings, are eligible to compete in the eight designated events with a total prize pool of $20 million. With only 48 players in total, LiveGolf has not only boosted the PGA Tour’s prize pool, it has also impacted the structure of the PGA Tour, which funnels money to a small elite.

One of the reasons the PGA Tour rushed to form a new entity with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in June is to financially align its skyrocketing prize money system. The challenge is how to integrate the PIF into the Tour, as it is unlikely to lower already high prize money. It’s the paradox of prize money.

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