The increases in professional golf's prize money and purses are staggering
You’ve likely heard there’s a lot of money to be made in professional golf nowadays. But precisely how much money can be made—especially compared to the past—is staggering.
The PGA Tour boasted a year-long purse of $421,800,000 last season through its 47-tournament schedule. That is an eye-popping figure, and some $30 million more than the previous campaign’s total. However, that $421 million-and-change figure is trumped by this year’s projected purse, which is expected to be increased by $140 million. We say expected since the four major championships have yet to release the purses up for grabs at their respective events. Assuming the majors stay at last year’s figures—and, more than likely, those figures will be increased—the tour’s total purse for the 2022-’23 season will cross the $563 million barrier.
The tour’s new elevated events are a major catalyst for this bump, with the events in question boasting anywhere from $15 to $20 million in winnings. This year’s Players Championship will hand out $25 million in earnings, a jump of $5 million from 2022, by far the biggest purse on tour. Well, for a regular season event, at least; because the FedEx Cup and Tour Championship are now one and the same, there will be $75 million on the line at East Lake when the circuit concludes its season in Atlanta.
These figures do not include other bonus pools, chiefly the tour’s new Player Impact Program. The PIP bonus pool was instituted in 2021 to reward players who boosted engagement and publicity for the tour. Ostensibly a response to some of the lucrative deals rumored to be coming from the then-Premier Golf League, the inaugural program somewhat backfired; five of the 10 winners in 2021—Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson—ultimately left the tour for LIV Golf. However, improvements to the PIP were announced at this year’s Tour Championship to broaden its scope. After spreading out $40 million to those on last year’s list, the 2022 PIP pool has increased to $100 million in payouts. The list has also doubled from 10 players to 20.
What is spurring these prize increases? It would be easy to nod to the advent of the aforementioned LIV Golf, and certainly the Saudi-backed circuit has played some part in the tour’s elevated event series. Conversely, many of the increases are a result of the tour’s new media deal, which began in 2022 and run through 2030 with CBS, NBC and ESPN. The deal reportedly gives the tour close to $700 million per year. Due to the nature of how the PGA Tour is run—it is listed as a 501(c)(6) non-profit—the tour is obligated to flow the money back to the players, while allowing expenses of the company to be paid and also to accumulate a reasonable reserve of funds.
Of course, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the money available at LIV Golf. This year LIV is handing out more than $400 million in 14 events, up from $225 million during its inaugural season. That does not include the signing bonuses some members received for defecting to the league, with some paydays estimated to be in the nine figures.
Still, the vault in financials remains jarring. For context, the PGA Tour’s $563 million projected total is more than double the tour’s total purse just 10 years ago ($260 million in 2013) and more than $500 million from 1993 ($53,203,611). For those wondering, the tour’s purse records date back to 1938, which saw a total purse of $158,000 spread across 38 events (the equivalent of $3,352,401.42 in 2023 dollars).