Rory McIlroy gave an honest, thoughtful answer Tuesday at the Players Championship when he admitted that the arrival of a certain Saudi-backed rival golf league has elevated the professional game as a whole.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie, I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA Tour has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf,” McIlroy said.
The numbers back McIlroy’s comments.
If we just take the purse for the Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s crown jewel, the rise in funds is nothing short of astronomical. The tournament laid claim to the most lucrative overall purse in professional golf starting in 2019 when Rory McIlroy won $2.25 million for his one-stroke win over Jim Furyk from an overall prize money payout of $12.5 million. The USGA matched that with its U.S. Open purse later that year, only to watch the tour up the ante at TPC Sawgrass to a purse of $15 million and a $2.7 million prize money payout for the winner starting in 2020.
The tour, as part of its new designated events strategy that came about in large part because of the LIV Golf threat, has upped the overall purse of the Players by another $5 million this year, moving it from $20 million to $25 million. Cameron Smith earned $3.6 million for his victory last year. Kurt Kitayama won that much for his win last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Players champion this year will take home $4.5 million. (The four majors have not yet released their respective purse numbers for this year.)
A few more notes. The total purse has doubled since 2019, when McIlroy won. The top five will all earn more than $1 million. The total purse in the inaugural year of the Players in 1974 was $250,000. The 23rd-place finisher this year will earn more than that entire purse. Jack Nicklaus was the winner and collected $50,000. All 65 players who make the cut this year will earn more than that.
Year: Total Purse/First place
1974: $250,000/Jack Nicklaus, $50,000
1982: $500,000/Jerry Pate, $90,000
1987: $1 million/Sandy Lyle, $180,000
1993: $2.5 million/Nick Price, $450,000
2000: $6 million/Hal Sutton, $1.08 million
2007: $9 million/Phil Mickelson, $1.62 million
2014: $10 million/Martin Kaymer, $1.8 million
2018: $11 million/Webb Simpson, $1.89 million
2019: $12.5 million/Rory McIlroy, $2.25 million
2021: $15 million/Justin Thomas, $2.7 million
2022: $20 million/Cam Smith, $3.6 million
2023: $25 million/Winner TBD, $4.5 million
Here is the prize money payout for all players who make the cut this week at TPC Sawgrass.