Golf is constantly expanding its borders as a global sport. In recent years, the Arab Gulf has committed huge investments, and sponsorship deals are always on the rise.
Like most sports, the professional game is becoming more and more lucrative for the most successful players. The financial benefits of winning major competitions increase every single year.
The establishment of LIV Golf backed by Saudi Arabia has seen some of the biggest stars be prised away from the PGA Tour in recent times due to the substantial financial incentives on offer.
Earlier in 2023, LIV Golf agreed to a partnership with the PGA, which will allow the top players to compete alongside eachother more regularly. But how did the sport’s highest earners rank over the past year, do the LIV Golf or the PGA Tour players come out on top?
The highest-earning players in the PGA Tour
The highest-paid PGA Tour player is certainly a huge point of interest. The tour is incredibly prestigious, and its top earners could be considered to be the most successful in the golfing world.
Rory McIlroy was the highest earner on the tour over the past year according to Forbes in 2023. Over 12 months the Northern Irishman earned $80 million which was evenly split between on-course and off-course incomings. He is regularly one of the main competitors in the major events, in the betting on golf for next year’s Masters he is one of the favorites at +800.
McIlroy is definitely deserving of his on-course rewards, but his position as the highest earner is mainly due to his successful business off the green. His investment business has stakes in a number of successful avenues including a health-tracking device known as Whoop. He also notably founded TMWR Sports with Tiger Woods.
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) July 16, 2023
Scheffler is not quite the astute businessman that McIlroy has become, nor is he quite as marketable a star yet – which are clearly the more decisive factors when it comes to the wealthiest earners on the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf’s highest earners
The partnership with the PGA Tour could see LIV Golf players be able to compete in more tournaments and perhaps increase their revenue income. However, they are already paid huge guaranteed sums in exchange for signing with LIV.
The highest earners within the tour backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund have minimal off-course earnings compared to the massive paid contracts that they receive.
Dustin Johnson was the highest earner in the golfing world in a 12-month period which culminated this June. His LIV contract of $106 million over that time makes him the most lucratively paid golfer alone. The American added just $5 million from his off-course endeavors.
— Dustin Johnson (@DJohnsonPGA) October 13, 2022
The legendary Phil Michelson is paid marginally less than Johnson for playing on the LIV Golf Tour. He earned $105 million in the one-year span that Forbes used to determine the highest earners in the sport. $2 million was added in off-course incoming. Ultimately, a single year contracted to LIV has earned Mickelson more financial rewards than all of his six major championship victories put together.
Golf’s highest earners indicate that the sport is following trends that other sports have shown in recent times. The most marketable, and most successful players – in terms of winning the major prizes – are not the most wealthy in the sport.
Saudi Arabia is aggressively investing in golf with its unmatched financial power, as it has done in soccer, motor racing, and many other sports.
The PGA Tour may carry the peak level of prestige, but it does not offer the leading income to match. Johnson whose greatest major result of the year was finishing tied for 10th at the the US Open, is the highest earner on the green in the world.