The PGA European Tour is the primary golf tour in Europe which operates the three leading men's professional golf tours. Most events on the tour are held in Europe, but over the years an increasing number of events have been held in other parts of the world as well, outside of North America. The European-based events on the PGA European Tour are nearly all played in parts of Western Europe and the most profitable of them, or the ones with the highest prize funds, take place in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and Ireland.
Without doubt, the PGA European Tour is the second most important tour in men's golf, behind the PGA Tour. When it comes to prize money, its harder to predict the European Tour's standing in comparison to the PGA Tour, and whether it has fallen or risen in the past few years. But one estimate from 2005 shows that the prize fund of European Tour, over £80 million or around $150 million, is around 60 percent of what the PGA Tour ($250 million) offers. In terms of prize money, the European Tour offers around 50 percent as much as the American tour.
The list below shows the top 10 career prize money leaders on the PGA European Tour after the 2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship which lasted from Feb 19 to Feb 23. Due to the increase in prize money in recent years, the countdown is dominated by current players. The figures are strictly restricted to the PGA European Tour events, and they do not represent the players' complete career earnings as most these players have earned millions more on other tours, especially the PGA Tour. In addition to that, the top professional golfers often rack up several times as much from endorsements and lucrative golf-related business interests as they do from prize money.
So, without further ado, here are the PGA European Tour's 10 highest career prize money winners.
10 Thomas Bjørn - €18,844,945 ($25,745,964)
Thomas Bjørn is the most successful Danish professional golfer to have played the game on the European Tour. Since turning pro in 1993, he has registered 21 professional wins and gathered a sum of €18,844,945 in prize money. The 43-year-old joined the European Tour in 1996, and he has since won 15 European Tour tournaments worldwide. In 1999, Bjørn became the first Dane to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team. He was a member of the Ryder Cup winning European teams in 1997 and 2002.
9 Sergio García - €19,283,074 ($26,344,536)
8 Darren Clarke - €20,160,989 ($27,543,943)
7 Ian Poulter - €21,040,382 ($28,745,370)
6 Miguel Ángel Jiménez - €21,415,660 ($29,258,075)
5 Retief Goosen - €21,851,642 ($29,853,713)
Retief Goosen has been ranked in Official World Golf Ranking's top ten list for over 250 weeks between 2001 and 2007. Since turning professional in 1990, he has won 43 international tournaments, including 14 European Tours and 7 PGA Tours. Goosen's main achievements to date have been his two U.S. Open wins in 2001 and 2004. He held the European Tour Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002. The 45-year-old has gathered a career prize money total of €21,851,642 on the European Tour.
4 Pádraig Harrington - €23,917,881 ($32,676,609)
Pádraig Harrington is an Irish professional golfer, turned professional in 1995. He plays on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour. He has 28 professional wins under his belt, including 14 European Tours and 5 PGA Tours. The 42-year-old has won three major championships: the 2007 and 2008 Open Championship and the 2008 PGA Championship. Harrington was a member of the 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010 Ryder Cup winning teams, representing Europe. So far in his career he has accumulated total prize money of €23,917,881 on the European Tour.
3 Colin Montgomerie - €24,536,203 ($33,521,361)
2 Lee Westwood - €29,326,836 ($40,066,323)
1 Ernie Els - €29,895,368 ($40,843,052)
Ernie Els is the highest earning professional golfer on the European Tour with a career earnings total of €29,895,368. He is a former World No. 1, and is renowned as 'The Big Easy' due to his imposing physical stature along with a fluid golf swing. He turned professional in 1989, and has since won 66 international tournaments, the most notable of those being the 1994 and the 1997 U.S. Open and the 2002 and the 2012 Open Championship. The 44-year-old is one of the six golfers in history to have won both the U.S. Open and The Open Championship twice. He has won 28 European Tour and 19 PGA Tour events. Els also won the 2003 and 2004 European Tour Order of Merit titles. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May of 2011.