The Richest Tournaments on the PGA Tour
This week PGA Tour golfers will descend upon Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to play the tournament named in their honor: The PLAYERS Championship. The tournament has long been billed as “the fifth major,” though very few players consider a win there on par with one at the Masters, the U.S. or British Opens, or the PGA Championship. But the PLAYERS do have something that the majors don’t have: The biggest purse on the PGA Tour.
The official figure won’t be announced until later in the week, the total prize money for the PLAYERS this year is expected to be north of the $9.5 million awarded in 2011, with the winner taking home a hearty check of more than $1.7 million. The bump up is due to a slightly improved economy and the stability the PGA Tour received with its recently extended TV deals with CBS and NBC, which complement the deal with the Golf Channel that was already in place. (All of the deals run through 2012 and are reportedly more than $28 billion combined.)
But the PLAYERS Championship isn’t the only big-money event on the Tour. Three of the World Golf Championships, which unite pro golf tours from Europe, Japan, Asia, Australia, Africa and the U.S., also make the list of the richest tournaments on the PGA Tour. The top three WGC events, in terms of prize money, take place on U.S. soil—the Accenture Match Play, the Cadillac Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational. (The HSBC Champions, which for the first year will offer official money, is held in China in November and is the 13th-highest paying event on the Tour, with $7 million in prize money). The former three have purses of $8.5 million apiece. Earlier this year, Hunter Mahan won the Accenture, while Justin Rose won the Cadillac. The Bridgestone takes place in August.
Next comes the four majors, the tournaments with the most prestige in golf. The Masters this year had a purse of $8 million. Watson took home the winner’s check of $1.44 million. The U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship are expected to have total purses of around $8 million, with winners taking home close to $1.5 million.
So where does the money come from? The PGA Tour has a unique business model. The purse money is derived from two sources. Around 60% of the total comes from the Tour’s television rights deals. The tournament sponsor is responsible for the remaining 40%. Title sponsors pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million a year for events that are televised on NBC and CBS. The TV networks get a pretty good deal on the golf: The Tour sells between 65%-75% of the TV advertising to their sponsors. The networks have to make up whatever remains.
Purses have grown exponentially in the last four decades. In 1970 the total purse for the 55 PGA Tour events was $5.5 million (less than any single tournament on the list below). By 1990 that figure had risen to $46.3 million for 44 events. In 2000, near the beginning of the Tiger Woods era, the total purse for 49 events was $164.4 million. In 2012, 45 events will have a combined purse of $279 million. (The Tour also has a major philanthropic bent. It has raised $1.7 billion in charity since its founding in 1968, and gave away $121 million last year.)
That purse growth has pushed the Tour’s four playoff events and even some of its regular events into the big money category. Regular stops–the Northern Trust Open, AT&T National and this past week’s Wells Fargo Championship—all have total prize money of $6.5 million and winner’s check of $1.2 million.
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