Forbes magazine recently published a list of the best-earning golfers and their income for the year 2008. It will not come as much of a surprise that despite his long absence from professional golf, Tiger Woods tops the list with earnings of $110 million. This fact illustrates the trend that appearance fees and prize money account for only a relatively small fraction of the income of world-class golfers these days. The bulk of Woods’ 2008 income came from sponsorship deals with companies like Nike, AT&T, Gatorade and Gilette.
Just as in the world golf rankings, Phil Mickelson is number two on the list. However, while Phil was able to take advantage of Tiger’s absence and (almost) closed the gap in the world rankings, his 2008 earnings of $38 million are just a little more than a third of what Tiger made. While Phil Mickelson made a good portion of his income through prize money (he rarely plays outside the US and therefore does not get a lot of appearance fees), he’s also got a neat list of blue-chip endorsements with (among others) KMPG, Barclays, Rolex and Callaway.
Here is the complete list of the ten highest-paid players in professional golf:
|1. Tiger Woods (USA) - $110 million
Sources: AT&T, Gilette, Gatorade, Electronic Arts, Accenture, Nike.
|2. Phil Mickelson (USA)- $38 million
Sources: KPMG, Callaway, Barclays, ExxonMobil, Rolex.
|3. Vijay Singh (FIJ) - $37 million
Sources: Vijay’s 2008 earnings include a $10 million bonus for winning last year’s FedEx Cup, even though the money will be paid out in annuities. Endorsement deals: Stanford Financial, Cleveland Golf, Footjoy.
|4. Greg Norman (AUS) - $24 million
Sources: Even though the “Great White Shark” rarely picks up a club for a competitive round of golf these days, his income from various business activities (including but not limited to golf course design, real estate and clothing) is anything but negligible.
|5. Sergio Garcia (ESP) - $24 million
Sources: “El Nino” had one of the best seasons of his career in 2008, e.g. with a play-off victory at the Players Championship, but is still missing that elusive first major title. Garcia has sponsorship agreements with Adidas, Omega and Michelob.
|6. Ernie Els (SAF) - $23 million
Sources: The “Big Easy” hasn’t had much success on the greens during the last years but as a truly global golfer he picks up appearance fees all over the world (especially in Asia). Together with endorsements (e.g. Callaway, SAP, Omega) and several business activities (golf course design, wine, tourism) it is still enough for 6th place on this list.
|7. Padraig Harrington (IRE) - $16 million
Sources: Arguably the most successful golfer of the past season, Harrington has to settle for 7th place. The major share of his earnings stems from – attention - playing golf. It certainly doesn’t hurt to win a couple of majors in one season.
|8. Jim Furyk (USA) - $15 million
Sources: The 2003 US Open champion is coming off a sub-par season (given his high standards) but still has strong endorsement deals with the likes of Electronic Arts, Exelon and Marquis Jet.
|9. Camilo Villegas (COL) - $13 million
Sources: Villegas is known for his flashy clothes, long hitting and Spiderman-like crouch reading putts. He appeals strongly to younger people (women in particular) and the Hispanic population, thereby making him very attractive for the advertising industry (e.g. Café de Colombia, Cobra, Footjoy, J. Lindeberg).
|10. Retief Goosen (SAF) - $9 million
Sources: A relatively meagre $9 million is enough for 10th and last place on this list. Goosen – who has recently returned into the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour after several winless years – has endorsement deals with CA, Taylor Made, Grey Goose and Electronic Arts.
While the earnings of top athletes have always been astronomical, the justice debate is more current than ever. The main targets of public anger have been managers and bankers, but professional golfers are making just as much or even more money.
How come that no one is asking for a “salary cap” on the PGA Tour? Don’t you feel that the prize money for PGA tournaments and the appearance fees paid to the best players are too high and should be adjusted? I am looking forward to a hopefully lively debate through the comment function.