You may have heard this old axiom before: in life, half the battle is just showing up.
There’s a certain truth to that statement in sports as well, especially when you view it through the bank accounts of the professional players which don’t make the headlines very often. Even if you’re a bench player in the NBA, NHL, NFL, or MLB, you’re still earning a six or seven-figure salary just for showing up to work each day.
This isn’t the case as much in individual sports. If you’re a tennis, golf, auto racing, or skiing/snowboarding competitor, you still have to achieve a minimum level of performance in order to qualify for a cash prize. In the case of golf, through 36 holes you still have to be one of the top 78 players (usually) or finish within ten strokes of the leader in a major tournament. If you do make the cut, you’re guaranteed at least some money. The minimum payout for any given tournament is at least $6,000, which isn’t bad for four days’ work.
Plus, here’s the kicker – even if you do get one of those “chump change” PGA paychecks, you’re still earning money just for playing golf. How many people would love to have a life like that?
In short, even if your name doesn’t appear on the final winners’ leaderboard – aka, the top ten finishers including ties – you can still earn a very impressive living on the PGA Tour. And with the current season at the unofficial halfway point just before The Masters, there have been quite a few golfers who have fattened their bank accounts despite not cracking the top ten at all. They’ve done this by playing well enough to punch their ticket into the final two rounds of the tournaments in which they’ve played. In other words, they’ve just “shown up” through half of the tournament, which guarantees them a share of the purse if they finish the final 36 holes.
With that in mind, here are the top ten “non top-ten” finishers on the PGA Tour thus far in 2013-14:
10. James Driscoll – $343,780
You read that right: it’s quite possible to become a “third-of-a-millionaire” on the PGA Tour without finishing in the top ten in just half a season’s worth of work. Driscoll’s best outing was a tie for 14th place in the Puerto Rico Open in March, although he has played in thirteen tournaments and made nine cuts. His other top-25 finishes included a tie for 18th at the Humana Challenge (where he was 19 under par for the tournament) and a tie for 21st at the season-opening Frys.com Open. Driscoll played his collegiate golf at the University of Virginia and has not won a PGA event since he turned pro in 2001.
9. Brian Davis – $353,748
This British golfer has a history of “close-but-no-cigar” finishes on the Tour, with five second-place finishes between 2007 and 2010 (including a 2010 playoff lost to Jim Furyk at the 2010 Verizon Heritage tournament). He also tied for sixth place at the 2003 British Open. Davis, who will turn 40 this year, does have a couple of victories on the European Tour – one in 2000 and the other in 2004. This season, his best finish was a tie for 13th in February’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Davis has made nine out of fourteen cuts, but has missed four of his last six cuts going into The Masters. As an example of how important making the cut can be, Davis carded an 18-over par score of 306 at the CIMB Classic in October – and still walked away with $13,230 in his pocket.
8. Kevin Chappell – $354,147
Chappell’s PGA career highlight came in 2011, when he finished in a tie for third place at the U.S. Open. He also had a second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open that year, as well as another runner-up finish at the Memorial Tournament last June. This season, Chappell has made nine of twelve cuts and notched a trio of top-25 finishes, which account for about 2/3 of his money winnings. The former Jack Nicklaus award winner in 2008 at UCLA earned $102,300 for finishing in a tie for 14th place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. And Chappell did bank over $1.5 million last season on the Tour, so he is capable of playing some consistent golf.
7. Lee Westwood – $373,875
Westwood is no stranger to top-ten PGA Tour finishes; he has 40 of them for his career. Two of those were victories: a three-stroke victory in 1998 at the Freeport-McDermott Classic, and a victory in a three-way playoff at the 2010 St. Jude Classic which went to four holes. The English golfer is even more famous across the pond, where he has amassed an amazing 22 European Tour victories, which puts him in the top ten all time in that category. This season, Westwood has played in only nine PGA events but has made the cut seven times. And he has earned a total of $250,500 in two non-tour events in which he competed in December – including a third-place finish at the Franklin-Templeton Shootout.
6. Sang-Moon Bae – $396,969
Bae, who was born in Dae Gu, South Korea, is only in his fourth season on the PGA Tour. Last May, he notched his first-ever Tour victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but he only has three other top-ten finishes in his career. Bae does have eight career victories on three other tours in Asia and Japan between 2007 and 2011. He has made about half of his cuts in his PGA Tour career. This season, Bae has made seven of 11 cuts and came close to the top-ten in two successive PGA tournaments in which he played: February’s Northern Trust Open (T12th) and March’s Valspar Championship (T14th). Those two events alone earned him $221,350 in prize money.
5. Martin Flores – $407,500
Flores is another Tour youngster, playing in just his fifth season on the PGA. But he has been on fire lately, posting top-25 finishes in four of his last five tournaments. Those performances account for over 3/4 of his season winnings, including his best payout of the year so far: $99,200 for a tie for 17th place at the Shell Houston Open a week ago. The University of Oklahoma grad did break the million-dollar mark in 2012 and earned another $805,000 and change last season. He has yet to win a PGA event during his career, with his best career finish coming last season at the John Deere Classic, when he finished in a tie for fourth place. Perhaps Flores’ biggest quirk as a golfer is that he doesn’t have any; he claims to eschew all superstitions and lucky charms.
4. Jonas Blixt – $411,180
In just 2 1/2 seasons on the PGA Tour, Blixt has already carded two victories: the 2012 Frys.com Open and last year’s Greenbrier Classic, to go with a fourth-place finish at last year’s PGA Championship. The Swedish golfer has made an impressive 37 of his 56 cuts during his PGA career and broken the $2 million mark in earnings in each of the previous two seasons. His game has tapered off a bit this season, although he does have four top-25 finishes in eleven events played (as well as a tie for eighth place in the aforementioned Franklin Templeton Shootout). Blixt’s last money finish was a tie for 16th place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, despite finishing 4 over par for the tournament.
3. Michael Thompson – $431,778
Thompson’s lone victory on the PGA Tour came last season at the Honda Classic, but he also finished in a tie for second place in the 2012 U.S. Open behind Webb Simpson after leading the field by three shots at the 18-hole mark. Thompson turned pro in 2008 and has amassed eight top-ten finishes on the PGA Tour since 2010. This season, he has made the cut in nine of 11 events (including his last four) and recorded four top-25 finishes. Thompson’s best payout this year was a $100,250 check for finishing in a tie for 16th place at the Hawaii Tournament of Champions back in January. He attended Tulane University for two years, but transferred to the University of Alabama after the Green Wave disbanded their men’s golf program following Hurricane Katrina.
2. Boo Weekley – $446,976
Weekley, who is tops on this list in the FedEx Point Standings to date at 76th place, actually flunked out of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia after a year; he then worked as a hydroblaster at a Florida Monsanto plant before turning pro in 1997. Weekley finally earned his PGA Tour card in 2007 and proceeded to win back-to-back championships at the Verizon Heritage Classic. His only other Tour victory came at last year’s Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial. Weekley does have 21 top-ten finishes in his PGA career and is coming off his best-earnings season when he cashed checks totaling $2,786,662. This season, he tied for 11th place in November’s World Golf Championships, and also tied for third at the non-official Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge later that month.
1. Phil Mickelson – $490,862
This is one of those lists that you wouldn’t expect Lefty to be at the top of. After all, Mickelson has never gone this long in a PGA Tour season without cracking the top ten on the final leaderboard. Undoubtedly a big reason for his struggles is a pain in his side that has forced him to withdraw from two tournaments already this year. But even a non-100% Mickelson is still pretty good: he has made eight of nine cuts and posted five top-25 finishes. He tied for 12th place at the Shell Houston Open, which netted him $125,440 and a little momentum going into the 2014 Masters, where he has earned three green jackets in the past decade. The career tally for Mickelson is always impressive to read: second on the all-time earnings list at over $73.6 million, 42 Tour victories, and five major titles including last year’s Open Championship.
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