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How Is Prize Money Split In Golf?

golfer winning the open holding claret jugIf you are even an average golf player, it is relatively easy to accumulate a small fortune in the sport, without ever having won a major tournament.

Over the years, there have been numerous players that have made a good living out of finishing in respectable places in tournaments, despite never having won a major. This is because the prize money is still very good for finishing, even as low as 10th. And then, the PGA Tour can be a consistent way of earning a good living, with 44 events per year.

Also, the majority of golfers in the top 50 per cent have sponsorship deals with brands, which helps to subsidise their income.

Of course now, there is also the much-contentious LIV Tour as well, bankrolled by the nation state of Saudi Arabia as a way of trying to put the country on the sporting map and leveraging the possibilities.

Some players have famously refused to be a part of this, while others have been criticised for ‘selling out’ by joining from the PGA Tour, due to the prize money and sponsorship opportunities being significantly more lucrative.

Below we explore how prize money is split in the game among the various tournaments that run on an annual basis.

The US Masters

us masters golf ballArguably one of the most anticipated golf tournaments in the calendar year, this is always played at the same course; one of the most visually stunning in the world. Augusta has essentially epitomised the sport for years, both the course and the tournament, which is the first major of the calendar year.

It is also one of the most lucrative when it comes to tournament prize winnings. For the 2023 edition of the Augusta Masters, which not only presented the winner with the iconic Green Jacket, but also a significant chunk of the $18 million prize purse – indeed, a $3 million increase on the previous year’s $15 million.

As a result, it meant that the winner Jon Rahm pocketed $3.24 million to take home, which represented a $630,000 increase from which the winner in 2022 – Scottie Scheffler pocketed. This actually is the single largest year-over-year increase in the history of the tournament.

In addition, an individual runner-up would have taken home $2 million, which is a bigger amount than both Danny Willet (2016) and Jordan Spieth (2015), both banked for winning the tournament.

However, it doesn’t just stop there. Anyone who finishes in the top 10 at the Augusta can expect to bank cheques for more than nearly $500,000, while every player who comes in the top 34 take home at least six figures. Even Charl Schwartzel and Fred Couples, who both finished tied for 50th took home $45,360 each from the tournament in 2023. Meanwhile, English golfer Tommy Fleetwood banked $106,200 for finishing in 33rd place. Not bad for four days of work.

What was interesting about 2023, is that US amateur golfer, Sam Bennett was among those who could have put himself in serious contention to win the tournament, however, a curious side note, is that amateur players are not entitled to any of the winnings, in accordance to the rulebook. Had Bennett indeed won, it would have meant that the winner’s prize pot would have been awarded to the player who finished in second place.

US Masters 2023 – Prize Breakdown

Player & Rank Winnings
John Rahm – 1st $3,240 million
Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka – 2nd $1.594 million each
Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Russel Henley – 3rd $744,000 each
Cameron Young, Viktor Hovland – 4th $580,500 each
Sahith Theegala – 5th $522,000 each
Scottie Scheffler, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa – 6th $432,000 each

The Open Championship

golfer takes a swing at the openFor many golfing enthusiasts, this is one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments of the year – played on British shores, it is essentially the equivalent of the US Open, but a bit more prestigious, with the Claret Jug, being the ultimate prize.

Played at a different course every year – often Links, there are some notable ones that have made the grade, including Carnoustie, Royal Troon and Muirfield. Undoubtedly the most iconic though, is St Andrews – dubbed ‘The Home of Golf’.

This was the venue for the 2022 Open Championship, which saw the R&A hand out a record prize pot of $14 million, with this being a considerable increase of $2.5 million that was handed out in 2021.

As a result, it meant the winner Cameron Smith pocketed $2.5 million to take home for winning the tournament in what was a thrilling finale, with second-place Cameron Young banking a cheque for $1.455 million.

Meanwhile, Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, who finished in third place was awarded winnings of $933,000 for finishing in third place. Tied for fourth, Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland both took home a cheque for $654,000 and Dustin Johnson and Brian Harman crept in just behind them with winnings of $469,500 each.

Scheffler, who won over $2.5 million for winning at Augusta just a few months previously, added another $120,286 to his annual purse, for finishing joint 21st alongside Billy Horschel, Min Woo Lee, Trey Mullinax, Shane Lowry, Kevin Kisner and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Rahm, meanwhile, was one of seven others including Englishman Lee Westwood who finished tied for 34th and pocketed $68,906. Interestingly, amateur golfers do take home part of the prize fund at The Open, which meant that Sam Bairstow banked $31,200 for finishing joint-81st with Sungjae Im, while Jamie Rutherford rounded off the leaderboard in 83rd, with a cheque for $31,075.

The Open Championship 2022 – Prize Breakdown

Player & Rank Winnings
Cameron Smith – 1st $2.5 million
Cameron Young – 2nd $1.455 million
Rory McIlroy – 3rd $933,000
Tommy Fleetwood

Viktor Hovland – 4th

$654,000 each
Brian Harman

Dustin Johnson – 5th

$469,500 each
Bryson DeChambeau

Patrick Cantlay

Jordan Spieth – 6th

$325,667 each

US Open Championship

golf ball with American flagOf course, not to be confused with the tennis equivalent which shares the same name, the US Open Championship is the third major golf tournament of the year and 2022’s edition saw it hand out a record purse.

As a result, this meant that the prize purse totalled a record $17.5 million. It meant that the winner at the Brookline course, Matt Fitzpatrick took home $3.15 million – nearly $1 million more than the previous year’s winner, Rahm.

In second place, Will Zalatoris and Scheffler, who continued an impressive 2022, took home $1,557,687 each, while Hideki Matsuyama took home $859,032. Meanwhile, McIlroy added to a respectable winnings pot for 2022, banking $664,293 alongside Hideki Matsuyama.

Even finishing in last place at The US Open pays well, with Grayson Murray banking $36,852 for coming in 63rd place.

US Open Championship 2022 – Prize Breakdown

Player & Rank Winnings
Matt Fitzpatrick – 1st $3,150,000
Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris – 2nd $1,557,687 each
Hideki Matsuyama – 3rd $859,032
Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy – 4th $664,293 each
Denny McCarthy, Adam Hadwin, Keegan Bradley – 5th $507,786 each
Gary Woodland, Joel Dahmen – 6th $400,788 each

US PGA Championship

pga of america logoThe flagship tournament of the PGA Tour, this is regarded as the fourth major of the year in golf, in terms of hierarchy, however, this is nonetheless still regarded as an honour to win by the players. Indeed, Tiger Woods has won it four times – one more than he has won the US Open.

Indeed, the 2022 edition of the PGA saw a record prize purse handed out – this being $15 million, with the winner, Justin Thomas banking a cool $2.7 million. Meanwhile, Zalatoris won $1,620 million and Cameron Young and Mito Pereira tied to take home $870,000 each. Fleetwood added to his respectable winnings from The Open, taking home $530,416 for finishing fifth, alongside Chris Kirk and US Open winner (Matt) Fitzpatrick.

McIlroy, meanwhile, continued his impressive form for the year, pocketing $436,600 for coming in eighth, which meant he banked over $3.5 million in 2022 for his performances in the major tournaments, having also won $1.62 million for finishing second at Augusta.

Impressively, even those finishing way down in the pecking order still can take a substantial amount at the US PGA, with Sepp Straka, who came last in 78th banking a respectable $23,700.

US PGA Championship 2022 – Prize Breakdown

Player & Rank Winnings
Justin Thomas – 1st $2,700,000
Will Zalatoris – 2nd $1,620,000
Cameron Young, Mito Pereira – 3rd $870,000 each
Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Kirk, Matt Fitzpatrick – 4th $530,416 each
Rory McIlroy – 5th $436,600
Brendan Steele, Tom Hoge, Abraham Ancer, Seamus Power – 6th $400,000 each

Qualifying For A Major Tournament

golfer setting up a tee shotIn order for golfers to be in with a chance of competing in a major golf tournament, it means that they have to meet certain criteria. The main one is that they record enough points on the PGA Tour and are consistent throughout the year.

Arguably one of the most impressive performers on the PGA Tour is McIlroy, who has consistently made the grade every year, while also continuing his form during the major tournaments, as we saw in 2022 when he never finished outside of the top 10, narrowly losing out for the Green Jacket at Augusta.

The PGA Tour also helps to continuously calculate rankings of players who are competing, with this helping to decide who will qualify for each major. It is not too uncommon for players to change positions with regularity, however, it should be noted that this does not necessarily determine world rankings, with performances at major tournaments also taken into account.

A Respectable Occupation?

golf ball with dollar signs for eyes droolingAs we have seen, every major tournament provides players with the average to still make a decent living from playing golf. There is no shame even to finish in 70th place at these tournaments, when taking into account the millions of golfers worldwide, in addition to the thousands of amateur golfers who consistently try to make the grade every year.

Even winnings of $150,000 per year still represents a salary well over the national average in many countries, while those players who earn slightly more per year – more towards the high six-figures likely add to this via sponsorship deals.

It is arguably one of the hardest and most competitive individual sports in the world, when considering the level of skill that is needed in the game and the top players of the past who have made millions from the sport, such as Woods have made it look easy.

How Does LIV Compare?

liv golf logoIt is likely that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet as far as LIV is concerned, with this backed by the state of Saudi Arabia, which is essentially a bottomless pit of cash, presenting an opportunity if it so wishes to really impose itself on the game of golf.

As such, the money on offer has already drawn multiple big names away from the PGA Tour, with many being attracted also by the potentially lucrative sponsorship opportunities.

The 2023 LIV tournament in Singapore had one of the biggest prize purses in the world of golf, with $25 million on offer for the no-cut 54 hole event.

As a result, it saw the eventual winner, Taylor Gooch bank a cool $4 million following a play-off, while Spaniard Sergio Garcia still took a highly respectable $2.25 million. Meanwhile, (Brooks) Koepka rounded off the top three, with $1.5 million in winnings. Furthermore, even the prize for last place was also considerably lucrative, with James Piot, who finished in 48th still banking a dazzling $120,000.

2023 LIV Singapore Golf Tournament – Prize Breakdown

Player & Rank Winnings
Talor Gooch – 1st $4 million
Sergio Garcia – 2nd $2,250,000
Brooks Koepka – 3rd $1,500,000
Scott Vincent – 4th $1,000,000
Mito Pereira – 5th $800,000
Jason Kokrak, Cameron Smith – 6th $700,000 each

What Will The Future Hold?

close up golf club and ball painted with saudi arabia flagBased on the last few years, it appears that prize funds have been growing considerably in golf and this could be set to continue, especially as the PGA and the major golf tournament boards look to compete with LIV.

While this could seemingly be impossible, there is still a prestigious attraction about the major tournaments, with them being steeped in a history that LIV cannot in any way compete with.

It may be interesting to see over the next few years, how many current PGA Tour golfers decide to jump ship, however, if they are consistently earning a good salary and performing well in major tournaments, there is no reason why the best players would move across to LIV, which could likely see prize pools increase to as much as $30 million over the next couple of years.

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