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From the Archive

From the Archive: Who knows these millionaires?

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My interest in golf writing was piqued in 1975 when I read Dan Jenkins’ game story from that year’s Masters. Never in my life did I ever think I would be a colleague of the Hall of Fame writer whose wit was sharper than a stiletto blade.

So as I was tabbed for an assignment to find a piece from the Golf Digest Archives, it seemed only fitting to find something from “His Ownself.” Jenkins’ rant in the February 2000 issue of Golf Digest about the number of PGA Tour players winning $1 million or more and the lack of star power among them seemed fitting. The title, “Who Knows These Millionaires?” is more apropos than ever given the crazy escalation of prize money payouts thanks to golf's civil war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

(Golf Digest+ members get access to the complete Golf Digest archive dating back to 1950. Sign up here.)

It's hard not to think that the great man is twirling in his grave (one he once quipped would be adorned by a tombstone that read, “I knew it would end like this.”) if he saw that so far in 2024 that 84 players have passed that milestone on the PGA Tour—and the season is still going. In 2023, the tour made millionaires of 142 players.

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When you go back and read his story, Jenkins' cleverly raises the point of who pays to see these guys? He wrote, “I’ve been going to tournaments since I was a kid. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret came to town, my dad took me. Every year I looked forward to it. But I’ll tell you one thing. Back then, I never once said, ‘Hey, Dad, here’s a good threesome, let’s go follow Joe Zarhardt, Gene Kunes and Bunny Torpey.’ Nobody ever said that. Not once. Never.”

Today just substitute Kramer Hickock, Matti Schmid and Andrew Novak—millionaires all in 2023—and you get the idea. In fact, 101 players who earned a million or more in 2023 didn’t win an event. Patrick Cantlay won more than $10 million without winning last year. (There are actually 16 golfers who have made more than $10 million in their PGA Tour careers without actually winning an event.)

Jenkins, however, saw the value in the rank-and-file cashing in. In a fictional conversation between two golfers, he posited: “I don’t begrudge any of the money these guys get. They’re the most vital people on tour.”

“They are?”

“Of course. Think about it. Without them, Tiger Woods has got nobody to beat.”

Sub in Scottie Scheffler for Woods and we’re up to date.

(Golf Digest+ members get access to the complete Golf Digest archive dating back to 1950. Sign up here.)