With the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule already more than four months complete, the golf season is picking up as the game’s top two players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have begun to show up (both made their first starts of 2014 in late January at the Farmers Insurance Open). Over the next seven-and-a-half months we can all expect to see a lot more of Tiger, Phil and other top players, which in large part is due to the money at stake. Sure there are the four golf majors ahead (The Masters, US Open, The Open Championship and The PGA Championship) and the recently added FedEx Cup Playoffs, but in actuality none of the four majors or the four FedEx Cup playoff events are among the top 5 largest purses players will play for on this year’s PGA Tour schedule. An interesting thought when you consider what the value of those events–particularly the majors–can do for a player’s career. Still, other events have stepped up and offered money any professional golfer would have a hard time walking away from. Here is a look at this PGA Tour season’s top purses.
6. (tie). Masters Tournament – $8 million
Yes, that’s correct. “The Masters” as it’s referred to, arguably the most coveted of all golf events among professionals and most popular among diehard and casual fans alike, is in an eight-way tie for sixth place for the highest tournament purses on the PGA Tour. The tournament held in Augusta, Ga. at Augusta National Golf Club every year on the second week of April is the harbinger for many golf fans that the current golf season has arrived, as players battle it out for a green jacket and a lifetime pass into the event. Although it’s the youngest of golf’s four majors, the popularity of the event revolves around a select field and the familiar venue co-created by the immortal amateur golfer Bobby Jones. The event almost always provides an exciting finish and pays pretty well too, as last year’s champion Adam Scott made $1.44 million to go along with his green jacket.
6. (tie). US Open – $8 million
The Masters might be the most sought after tournament win for many golfers, but a lot of golfers, especially American players, will tell you that the U.S. Open is the crème de la crème. Dating back to the late 1800s, the U.S. Open has long been labeled as “golf’s toughest test” with the United States Golf Association picking challenging venues and tinkering with the courses to amp up the difficulty level. Because of this, the tournament is more a war of attrition instead of a birdie-fest, as the winning score is usually right around par if not over-par. Additionally, the mid-June classic is much more accessible to golfers than the Masters, as any scratch golfer whether pro or amateur can attempt to qualify and doesn’t need an invitation. However, only the pros can keep their winnings; finishing first is worth a $1.44 million paycheck.
6. (tie). The Open Championship – $8 million
Just as the U.S. Open means a lot to American golfers, the Open Championship–British Open as Americans call it–is often the most coveted championship on the schedule to Brits and non-Americans alike. By far the oldest championship of any of the four majors–if not most tournaments in the world–the Open Championship is played every July on one of several courses in Great Britain. Since the first Open was played in 1860, golfers have been competing for the most iconic trophy in golf, the Claret Jug–or at least for most of those years, as in the first 13 years a belt was awarded. But the winner of the tournament nowadays doesn’t only walk away with a silver trophy full of history; he also earns a payday worth $1.44 million.
6. (tie). PGA Championship – $8 million
Undoubtedly the least desired of the four majors, the PGA Championship is still a major and has a claim the others don’t. The PGA Championship is frequently recognized as the toughest field of the four majors, largely due to it being 100 percent professionals, while all three other majors and many PGA Tour events allow amateurs to compete. The PGA Championship for many years held the moniker “Glory’s Last Shot” referring to its regular mid-August date following the other three majors, but was discontinued before last year’s event as PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem didn’t want fans to forget about the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Again, the winner earns a $1.44 million paycheck and his name on the gigantic Wanamaker Trophy, which stands 28 inches tall, 10 ½ inches in diameter and weighs 27 pounds.
6. (tie). The Barclays – $8 million
Wanting to keep golf fans interested after the conclusion of the PGA Championship each year, the PGA Tour pitched a playoffs idea at the conclusion of the 2005 season where the top-125 golfers would compete for a grand prize over a four-tournament period with a number of golfers being eliminated each week. Since 2007 when the FedEx Cup Playoffs began, The Barclays has been the kickoff event normally held at a golf course in the New Jersey/New York area. This year’s event will be held August 21-24 at Ridgewood CC in Paramus, N.J. with the winner making a cool $1.44 million.
6. (tie). Deutsche Bank Championship – $8 million
The week following The Barclays is the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs with the Deutsche Bank Championship held annually at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass. This event regularly held over Labor Day weekend is a more unorthodox event than most PGA Tour stops, as play begins on Friday and ends on a Monday. The top-100 on the FedEx Cup points list after the conclusion of The Barclays advance onto the Deutsche Bank Championship and compete for a $1.44 million first place check. Last year’s winner Henrik Stenson used his momentum from the victory to go on and win the FedEx Cup less than three weeks later.
6. (tie). BMW Championship – $8 million
After two weeks of FedEx Cup Playoffs the original 125 player field shrinks down nearly in half as only the top 70 players compete in the BMW Championship. In the past, this event has regularly been played in the Midwest, namely the Chicago-area, and has also come with a slight break in the action with the PGA Tour taking a week off in early September. However, in 2014 the event will begin not only three days after the conclusion of the Deutsche Bank Championship, but it is being played out West at Cherry Hills CC just outside of Denver, Colorado. The purpose for the change is to give a week off between the Tour Championship and the biennial Ryder Cup event. The winner of the event earns $1.44 million and likely puts himself in good position for a legitimate shot at the FedEx Cup title.
6. (tie). Tour Championship by Coca-Cola – $8 million
Unlike The Barclays and the BMW Championship, which don’t have a permanent home, the Tour Championship is held every year at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga. in mid-to-late September to conclude the season’s schedule. While the purse is $8 million just as the other three playoff events with the winner banking $1.44 million, players actually walk away with a lot more money earned when the last ball is holed at the Tour Championship. The reason? At this point the FedEx Cup Playoffs are complete and the $35 million purse for the four weeks of playoffs is divvied up with $10 million being awarded to the overall winner. Additionally, the field of 30 players doesn’t involve a cut, so even the 30th place finisher in the event makes $128,000 just for completing four rounds of golf.
5. World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions – $8.5 million
In October 1997, at the conclusion of Tiger Woods‘ rookie season, the World Golf Championships idea was pitched and by 1999 it was a part of the PGA Tour Schedule. It’s probably no coincidence these events were established when golf was becoming a ubiquitous sport due to “Tiger Mania”, as golf’s big wigs saw the value of creating a few events each year with the world’s top players. Over the past 15 years the events have been held on five of the six inhabited continents and select elite fields based off world rankings and standings from different professional tours. There are currently four World Golf Championships with the HSBC Champions tournament kicking off the golf season in late October. This is the only WGC event in the 2013-14 season that was held outside of the U.S. and the lowest-paying purse worth $8.5 million. The money wasn’t enough to attract the game’s biggest name as Tiger Woods skipped the event. Instead Dustin Johnson earned a $1.4 million payday for first place in the no-cut, 78-player field that was held at Sheshan International GC in Shanghai, China.
2. (tie). World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship – $9 million
For those who enjoy March Madness, golf has an event that is the perfect precursor to the popular college basketball tournament. The Accenture Match Play Championship, which was the original WGC event, is held every year in late February and is the only remaining regular match play event on the PGA Tour. What makes this event unique is that the field of 64 is matched up similarly to what is done every March with college basketball teams, as there are four sub-brackets with players seeded from 1 to 16 in each. From there, players compete in head-to-head matches going from the round of 64, 32, 16, etc. until there is an eventual champion, who has won all six match-ups. Unlike March Madness where top seeds normally advance fairly deep into the tournament, the Accenture Match Play sees plenty of upsets, even from 16-seeds. Case in point, in the 2002 event, three of the No. 16 seeds upset No. 1 seeds and one of those No. 16 seeds, Kevin Sutherland, won the event. This five-day event from February 19-23 has a purse worth $9 million with the winner earns a $1.5 million check.
2. (tie). World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship – $9 million
Held a month before the Masters Tournament in early March, this is a popular event for players that is hosted regularly in Miami at Trump National Doral, a golf course commonly referred to as “The Blue Monster.” The event is the second tournament of the Florida-Texas swing, a five-week period that leads up to the aforementioned event with a green jacket involved. Tiger Woods has dominated this event, winning seven out of 14 times, including last year in 2013. The only other multiple winner of the event is four-time major champion Ernie Els, who won in 2004 and 2010. Of the seven different winners, only 2011 champion Nick Watney has yet to win a major as Woods, Els, Mike Weir, Phil Mickleson, Geoff Ogilvy and Justin Rose have won at least one each. The event that has gone by two other names–the American Express Championship (1999-2006) and the CA Championship (2007-2010)–also has a $9 million purse with the winner taking home $1.5 million.
2. (tie). World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational – $9 million
The week before the year’s final major, the PGA Championship, the Bridgestone Invitational is held annually at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. This is another event that has been dominated by Tiger Woods since its inception as he won the first three events (1999-2001) and has won eight times total. Adding his eighth victory at Firestone Country Club’s South Course in 2013, Woods had his other four victories come in 2005-2007 and in 2009. The event’s other seven winners do hold some clout as Darren Clarke, Stewart Cink, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley are all major winners. The tournament’s two other champions are Craig Parry (2002) and Hunter Mahan (2010). Although it is the final WGC event of the 2013-14 season, it pays the same as the Accenture Match Play and the Cadillac Championship with the winner earning a $1.5 million prize from a $9 million purse.
1. The Players Championship – $9.5 million
Originally known as the “Tournament Players Championship” when it began with a Jack Nicklaus victory in 1974, The Players Championship has frequently been referred to many as “golf’s fifth major.” One reason could be due to the money at stake, as it’s always the highest tournament purse on the PGA Tour, but it also boasts arguably the best field of any tournament. Plus, there’s a lot more at stake than the $1.75 million first prize and $9.5 million purse. The golfer who is able to navigate his way around TPC Sawgrass best–keeping his ball out of the water around the famous island green on No. 17–gets numerous exemptions: a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour; exemptions to the Masters Tournament and Open Championship for three years as well as one-year exemptions to the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
The Players Championship has been held annually at TPC Sawgrass since 1982 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. the home of PGA Tour headquarters. The stadium-style course with elevated areas for galleries to better watch players compete has not seen one player dominate the course over the last three decades. Jack Nicklaus has won the event most with three, but all his victories came prior to the event being held at TPC Sawgrass (1974, 1976, 1978). Since then, five players have multiple victories with Tiger Woods becoming the most recent, winning in 2013 after his first victory in 2001.