Tiger Woods is often measured by the number of golf majors that he has won or his total victories on the PGA Tour, both meaningful numbers for putting his career in perspective.
Those 15 majors and 82 wins overall contribute to his unmatched appeal to fans of the sport, but neither has anything directly to do with why fellow golfers also like Woods: He makes them money.
In fact, he makes them unimaginable amounts of money.
It’s understandable why Tiger Woods tops the earnings list
Tiger Woods has won The Masters five times, the PGA Championship four times, and the U.S. and British Opens three times apiece to account for his 15 victories in grand slam events. Each adds to both his legacy and his bank account.
Woods’ career earnings on the PGA Tour since turning pro in 1996 have totaled $120,660,780, which is easily a record and does not reflect what he has pulled in from endorsements for everything from golf clubs to automobiles.
The winner’s share in 32 of the last 37 tournaments he has captured has been $1 million or better, which helps explain how the money has piled up so quickly. An examination of PGA Tour data over the years helps explain the Tiger Woods effect and why colleagues can’t help but like the man even when they lose to him:
The more tournaments Woods wins, the more eager event sponsors and television are to contribute to the pool of prize money – which in turn adds to the amount Woods and his fellow pros earn. It’s a phenomenon on pause for the moment because the coronavirus pandemic has suspended play but will resume when the season does.
A look at the money before and since Tiger Woods’ arrival
The PGA Tour’s original 2019-20 season schedule called for 50 tournaments with purses ranging from $3 million for tour stops in Puerto Rico and Bermuda to the $15 million that would have been shelled out had the coronavirus pandemic not stopped The Players Championship after one round earlier this month. Only five tournaments on the schedule pay less than $1 million to the winner.
The total prize money in 1996, which was Tiger Woods’ final year as an amateur, was $101 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be worth approximately $169 million today.
The sum soared to $292 million ($357 million adjusted for inflation) in 2008. That year is significant because Woods would be in a downward spiral by the end of the following season thanks to well-documented injuries and dealing with the fallout in his personal life over the disclosure of extra-marital affairs.
Going forward another 12 years, the total in 2020 is $430,050,000, minus what will be lost due to canceled events. That’s a nice bump from the 2008 level, but not nearly as dramatic an increase as during the peak of Woods’ career; he’s scored just 11 of those 82 victories since the beginning of the 2010 season with eight coming in 2012-13. It should be noted that the Great Recession also had an impact on purses for several years.
SportingIntelligence.com concluded in 2014 that Woods’ popularity was responsible for adding $1.6 billion in total prize money that would otherwise not have existed between 1997 and 2008.
These stars are among the golfers who’ve benefitted most
Given his 82 career victories, matching Sam Snead for the all-time record, Tiger Woods’ haul of more than $120 million comes as no surprise. He has led the season money list 10 times in his career.
Woods contemporaries Phil Mickelson ($91,299,439) and Vijay Singh ($71,216,128) are next on the money list. With 44 and 34 victories, respectively, it’s understandable how Mickelson and Singh have accumulated so much prize money. Still, the SportingIntelligence.com study attributed a combined $65 million to money that Woods’ presence added to tournament purses.
Jim Furyk has won a relatively modest 17 times since turning pro in 1992 and just four times since 2007, yet he is fourth on the career money list at $71,234,957.
Six other competitors have reached $50 million in career earnings. Between them, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, and Sergio Garcia possess 81 victories – one less than Woods – yet have earned more than $324 million.