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Counting the cash - Golf's top earners

By: Golf Shake | Mon 10 Aug 2015

WHO says that golf doesn't pay? Trust me when I tell you that for the elite players in the game it pays rather nicely, thank you very much.

Any ideas how much the world's top 10 earning tour pros earned between them from June 1, 2014, to June 1 this year? $100m? $130m? $150m? $180m? $200m? $220m? No higher than $250m, surely. Sit down and take a deep breath and any required medication - the figure is about $280m. That includes prize money and endorsements.

We are sure you will agree that, with the global economy only just beginning to emerge from recession, those are pretty tidy sums. They are certainly enough to convince most parents that if their offspring shows any promise whatsoever, they should be encouraged.

Tiger has has made millions out of endorsements in the past year despite hardly playing

Tiger endorsements

Remember that Earl Woods had it in mind to try to turn his son into the world's best golfer when young Eldrick was barely old enough to walk. Richard Williams did the same thing with his tennis-playing daughters, Venus and Serena. It does not always work out though. Sean O'Hair and his father are estranged because O'Hair Sr punished his son when he didn't play well - or as well as Pop thought he should play, at least.

So, during the period in question, who do you think made the most money and topped the list, compiled by Forbes? You may be surprised to learn that it wasn't Tiger Woods. Nor was it Rory McIlroy. Before you say "Arnold Palmer", remember that we are talking only about active golfers; in other words, those who still make their living by playing the game competitively. Some would argue that would rule out Woods anyway.

No, the top earner was Phil Mickelson. What makes that hard to believe is the fact that Lefty hasn't exactly been enjoying huge success on the course. In fact, last season was just about his worst since he first turned professional. But the thing with Mickelson is that he remains a marketable figure.

How marketable?

Well, he "only" earned $2.8m in prize-money, but he pocketed a further $48m in sponsorship and endorsement income, making a total of $50.8m. Since turning  pro in 1992, Mickelson has accumulated $77m in total prize money. This past year he only brought in $2.8m from his play on the course. However, it’s the $48m is raked in from endorsement deals, that put Mickelson in pole position.

Mickelson's endorsement earnings come from his association with the likes of Callawaay, Barclays, KPMG, Exxon Mobil, Rolex and Amgen. Not bad for a golfer who hasn’t won a tournament since 2013. Still, when you take into account that Mickelson has 42 PGA wins and five Majors in his career, it’s no surprise that he continues to be one of the most popular golfers on tour. The $600m he's made from prize money, appearances, and endorsements are still second in comparison to Tiger’s overall haul. However, in the past 12 months, Mickelson is the top man.

So, here is the full top 10 counting down to No.1: 


Total earnings $14.1m; winnings $2.1m; Endorsements $12m

The Big Easy struggled in 2014 on the course. But he has a very successful wine operation and golf course design business. Els has designed 12 courses, with many others in developments. His sponsors include SAP, Boeing, Adams Golf, RBC and Ecco


Total earnings $14.2m, winnings $4.2m, endoresements $10m

In 2014, Scott became the 17th golfer to reach the No. 1 ranking in the world before being replaced by Rory McIlroy. His victory at The Massters in 2013  added millions to his bank account from sponsors and increased appearance fees. Major partners include Titleist, Uniqlo and Rolex


Total earnings $16.5m, winnings $7.5m, endorsements $9m

Garcia played some of the best golf of his life in 2014, climbing to fifth in the world rankings, his best since 2008. He enjoyed 12 top-10 finishes, including seven in the top three. His sponsorship deals include Adidas, TaylorMade, Omega and Mission


Total earnings $17.3m, winnings $7.3m, endorsements $10m

Fowler joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus last year as the only golfers to finish in the top five off all four majors during the year. One big difference: he was the only one of the three not to win one. Fowler broke through in 2015 winning the "fifth" Major, the Players Championship and the Scottish Open. Fowler is Puma's chief endorser. He also has deals with Titleist, Red Bull, Quicken Loans, Electronic Arts, Farmers Insurance, Rolex and WheelsUp.


Total earnings $19m, winnings $16m, endorsements $3m

Horschel is the only player in our list whose on-course earnings exceed his sponsorship income, and that is as a result of winning two FedEx Cup playoffs, including the Tour Championship, to earn the $10m bonus awarded to the FedEx Cup champion. It pushed his prize money over the last 12 months to $16m1. Horschel added Lexus in 2015 to his endorsement portfolio, which also includes Titleist, Ralph Lauren, Zurich Insurance, Arccos and Ping.


Total earnings $19.8m, winnings $8.8m, endorsements $11m

Be sure of one thing. Spieth's earnings are about enter the stratosphere after his victories at The Masters and US Open. He won at Augusta with a record-equalling 20-under total. In 12 months, Spieth pulled in $19.8m in total earnings. He enjoyed  $8.8m winnings on the course - and that does not include  his US Open cheque. Apart from a deal with Under Armour that runs until 2025, Spieth also has partnerships with AT&T, Titleist and Rolex.


Total earnings $20.2m, winnings $8.2m, endorsements $12m

The 2013 U.S. Open Champion made $12m in endorsements, thanks to Adidas, Ashworth, British Airways, Hublot, Lamkin, TaylorMade and Zurich Insurance sponsorship deals. Rose also brought in $8.2m from his winnings, and that form has continued in 2015, with victory in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and a host of other top-10 finishes.


Total earnings £48.3m, winnings $16.3m, endorsements $32m

The World No. 1 may only be the third highest paid golfer in 2015, but he will not be complaining about bringing in $48.3m in 12 months. During the period, he won five PGA Tour events, The Open and the US PGA Championship. Not a bad year by anybody'sstandards, even though the split from his former management company left him some £20m out of pocket. But his endorsement income ensures he will not be worrying about that for too long.  He has a mega deal with Nike, and also has contracts with Santander, Electronic Arts, Bose, Omega, and Upper Deck.


Total earnings $50.6m, winnings $600,000, endorsements $50m

It hardly seems credible that Woods picked up just $600,000 in tournament earnings, but he did spend most of the time injured. Despite that, he earned $50m in sponsorship income, with Nike alone paying him $20m. He also has lucrative deals with MusclePharm, Hero motorcycles and a burgeoning golf course design business.


Total earnings $50.8m, winnings $2.8m, endorsements $48m

With earnings of $50.8m, Mickelson finally overtook Woods to become the world's highest-paid golfer. He has won 42 times on the PGA Tour and has picked up five majors in a glittering career. He has sponsorship deals with Callaway, Barclays, KPMG, Exxon Mobil, Rolex and Amgen

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Tags: tiger woods sergio garcia rory mcilroy phil mickelson justin rose Jordan Spieth Ernie Els adam scott

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