• Alistair Tait

Nice work if you can get it


Marc Leishman made $19,910 for finishing at the bottom of the field in last week’s BMW Championship. Whoever finishes 30th and last in this week’s Tour Championship will earn $395,000.

The winner banks $15 million. Nice work if you can get it.

Dustin Johnson is in poll position to bank that windfall. Jon Rahm, last week’s BMW Championship winner, is breathing right down his neck.

Hands up if you feel a wee bit uncomfortable with that amount of money being paid out for hitting a small white ball over green and pleasant fields at a time when people are losing their lives and their jobs because of coronavirus?

Yes, me too.

If ever you were looking for a reason why so many players spend as little time as possible in the amateur game, then the figures above perhaps might explain why. They'd be daft not to try and cash in.

Leishman’s $19,910 cheque might sound like a pittance compared to the $1,710,000 Rahm earned for defeating Johnson in a playoff – poor DJ had to settle for a cheque for $1,710,000 – but it needs to be put in perspective in these coronavirus times. Some American families would probably love an annual salary of $19,910.

Money changes everything sing Delta Moon, one of my favourite bands. It’s certainly changed the face of golf. In 1989, Tom Watson said professional golf had lost touch with real life. Watson said:

“Sure the purses are obscene. The average worker, let’s say, make $25,000 a year, while a golfer makes $15,000 for finishing 10th. Our values have departed somewhat.”

Twenty five thousand? Pah! Mackenzie Hughes and Lando Griffin shared 10th place last week and made $247,000 each. Whoever finishes 10th at East Lake this week will earn $830,000.

I interviewed Watson at the Masters in 1989. He told me the reason young players needed to be hungry for success was because they could earn in a few short seasons what they’d struggle to earn in a lifetime in the real world.

Jack Nicklaus once complained about tour players being happy to pick up fat cheques instead of silver trophies.

“The guys I’ll never understand are the self-confessed non-competitors – the golfers who pick up $100,000 plus a year without ever winning a tournament and go around telling the world how happy they are to finish ninth every week.”

Forget 100k. According to the PGA Tour website, the tour average for official money this year through the BMW PGA Championship is $1,015,708. There are 91 players who’ve earned over $1 million. And that’s in a season disrupted by Covid-19. Sixty three of them haven’t won a tournament.

The tour’s average earnings last year was $1,225,318. One hundred and twelve players earned over $1 million. Seventy-three players failed to win a tournament. Martin Kaymer took the 125th and final spot for those keeping their cards and banked $877,761. Imagine being the worst in your office and earning just under $900k?

Peter Malnati finished 126th on the money list and lost his job despite earning $864,496.

IMG’s world money list for 2018 identified 158 players who earned over $1 million. In another example of inequality in golf, just 20 women earned over $1million that year.

No wonder so many European Tour pros want to play on the PGA Tour. And the money’s good on the European circuit. India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar finished 115th on last year’s Race to Dubai, the final spot for those keeping cards, and earned €298,882. Leon Hugo finished in 116th position and made €270,012.97. Not quite as good as the PGA Tour but, as with Malnati, enough that we shouldn’t feel sorry for him.


Nor should we feel sorry for anyone who plays badly this week at East Lake, where a grand total of $45 million is up for grabs.


I’m not pointing fingers at those lucky enough to be competing for such prizes: we’d all be doing the same if we could. I'm also well aware of the commendable work the PGA Tour does for charities, donating millions to worthwhile causes every season. However, the prize money on offer rankles just a wee bit considering the suffering many are going through in these coronavirus times.

#JustSaying: "You make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives. Both of them are so rich that neither of their husbands work.” Lee Trevino

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