Which tour players are happiest? Not necessarily the best ones
Photo by Stan Batz/PGA Tour
Who has the best life on the PGA Tour is a highly personal and subjective question. It depends on your values, your ambitions, what's going to give you the most happiness during your short time on Earth. That said, it ain't anybody in the top 10 in the World Ranking, or probably even the top 20. Those guys live under a microscope. Seems like Rory McIlroy has to do media every time he shows up to the course. Rickie Fowler makes nice bank from all those sponsors, but it's a rare day when he doesn't have a photo shoot or some other type of obligation. And, of course, Tiger Woods can't walk 50 feet to a port-a-john without getting hounded.
Me? I'm the kind of player who only gets interviewed when I shoot 65, which suits me fine. It's fun talking to the writers a handful of times a year. I'm sponsored by the same clothing company as one of the prominent young guns, but I have one-tenth the appointments. One time I saw him getting dragged off on a hot day to do who knows what. I just winked at him as I headed into the clubhouse to watch basketball with the boys.
A buddy of mine was out to dinner last spring with Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson in Jupiter, Fla. This was when Brooks was injured. A group of people approached their table to ask DJ for his autograph. They were oblivious that the guy sitting next to him was the defending U.S. Open champion. Now, Brooks has made comments about not getting the respect his playing record warrants and all that, but I'm not sure how much he really cares deep down now. His life is pretty sweet. He's deposited three first-place major-championship checks, has a supermodel girlfriend, and provided he's wearing street clothes, he can go get a cup of coffee without anyone knowing who he is. He's a good looking guy, but in a universal way that doesn't make him stand out. To reach No. 1 in the world and still fly under the radar—to me, that's living. But if Brooksy does wish he were getting asked for autographs in public, then clearly he's not content.
Camilo Villegas is another golfer you'll see cruising around Jupiter, sometimes on his road bike. He's got four PGA Tour wins and an unbelievable house on the water. Being the best pro from Colombia is a distinction that's translated well into various sponsorship deals, and my sense is that he's saved a lot of it. Despite everything he's got going, he's a guy with a keen sense for being slighted. I think he's disappointed he doesn't have a major. He wants más.
Going a couple more pegs lower in status, Steve Marino might be one of the most satisfied tour pros I know. He's got a lifestyle that suits his personality. The guy has won over $10 million in his career, and that goes a long way when you've got no wife, no kids and pretty much no bills. When he's home, he just chills without a care in the world, orders Chow Cab food-delivery service three times a day. It's possible it bothers him a teeny bit that he's never won (he's finished second five times), but Marino's just happy to be playing G. He's not worried about getting full playing privileges back. “Oh, yeah, bro, I'll just play Web,” he told me with a big grin last time I saw him.
I love my life. Every week I visit a different golf course that's in the best condition it'll be all year. I've got a beautiful wife and two awesome kids, though the responsibility can be a stressor. I'm not exactly sure where the line falls, but I believe there's a point where anonymity becomes more valuable than money. I'm not there yet. -- with Max Adler
Illustrations by Ron Barrett