Professional golf’s jackpot: 271 players pocketed over $1 million in 2023

The 2024 PGA Tour season kicks off as the new Saudi circuit attracts more golfers with big prize money

Scottie Scheffler
American professional golfer Scottie Scheffler at The Sentry, the opening tournament of the 2024 PGA Tour season in Maui, Hawaii.MICHAEL REAVES (Getty Images via AFP)
Juan Morenilla

The 2024 PGA Tour season kicked off on January 4 with the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, Hawaii. Competing in The Sentry are last year’s PGA tournament winners and the top 50 players from the FedEx Cup. These winners include world No. 3 Jon Rahm (Spain), who won four events in 2023: The Sentry, American Express, Genesis and Masters tournaments. But when Rahm decided to join the Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf league, the PGA decided to boot him from the tour.

Professional golfers around the world are starting off a new season with one eye on their games and the other on their wallets. Last June, officials from the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) set a December 31, 2023, deadline to finalize a definitive partnership agreement. But the deadline came and went with no deal. According to a memo sent to players on December 31 by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, negotiations will continue with the PIF, the European circuit, and Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of U.S. sports team investors chosen by the PGA as its preferred partner.

A PGA deal with the Saudis seems inevitable. Rahm’s departure was a very tough blow, and the legendary Royal and Ancient, a leading body within the world of golf, says it’s studying the prospect of promoting the sport with Saudi Arabia. Even Rory McIlroy — a steadfast critic of LIV Golf — has softened his position. “I think I was maybe a little judgmental of the guys who went to LIV Golf at the start, and I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part… I wouldn’t say I’ve lost the fight against LIV, but I’ve just accepted the fact that this is part of our sport now,” he said, acknowledging what he called Rahm’s “smart business move.” McIlroy recently resigned from the PGA policy board, another indication of the players’ growing distrust with the circuit. “They view us as labor, not members. We are the PGA Tour — without us there is no tour,” said Norwegian Viktor Holvand, the 2023 winner of the FedEx Cup. Some tournament sponsors like Honda and Wells Fargo have also turned a cold shoulder to the PGA Tour.

Rahm will play in his first LIV Golf event on February 2 in Mexico. Meanwhile, McIlroy is hoping for peace in the golf world. “I hope we can all come together again, although there are folks on both sides who don’t seem too keen on that idea. The LIV guys don’t want to return to the PGA because they don’t feel like they’ve been treated right. And those of us at the PGA aren’t eager to deal with those who left, either. But we all have to put our egos aside and move forward together, because that’s what’s best for golf.”

Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm dons LIV Golf gear after signing with the Saudi league.Scott Taetsch (AP)

The pro golf wars are unfolding amid an unprecedented distribution of prize money. Golf Digest and Ten Golf estimated that 271 golfers earned over $1 million in 2023. Of these, 139 players were from the PGA Tour; 49 from LIV Golf; 32 from the European men’s tour; 28 from the LPGA; and 19 from the Champions Tour.

American Talor Gooch, a mid-level LIV player, pulled in $35 million after winning in Adelaide, Singapore and Valderrama. He became the highest-earning player ever in a calendar year, and raked in another $18 million for winning LIV’s season-long points race. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler collected $21 million for winning the Phoenix and The Players tournaments, and placing in the top 10 in 15 of the 21 tournaments he played. Rahm earned $17 million, plus a $9 million bonus for his third-place standing in the PGA’s Player Impact Program. And 2024 is already looking like it will be a record-setting year. The season’s opening tournament — The Sentry — will distribute $3.6 million in prize money, $900,000 more than last year.

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