ATLANTA — The last-place finisher in this year’s Tour Championship will earn more for four days than the average American has earned in eight years. The winner will receive more than the average American can earn in their many lifetimes.
Money in golf has now reached incredible and incomprehensible levels. It’s like trying to figure out how big the fireworks are in the sky. You know it’s big, but you can’t even imagine it how big.
This weekend, with an eye on the FedEx Cup contenders, TV viewers will hear about the vast fortunes awaiting the winner – $18 million – as well as the staggering cost of finishing in one or two strokes. For John Rahm, who was among the candidates for this huge sum, focusing on money is just the wrong approach, both for golf as a sport and for the mentality of players trying to achieve greatness.
“What bothers me is that they make this tournament about money, because I think it deprives them of money,” Ram said on Friday.
It may be the media in this case, or it may be the PGA Tour itself, which has kept throwing zeros at the end of its wallets to keep the attention of already wealthy players. The tour faces the critical situation of maintaining the day-to-day operations of professional golf while not having a direct connection to the four crown jewels of the sport. winning a major is a career achievement; Winning the FedEx Cup Playoffs isn’t quite the same.
Ram alluded to this when discussing the value of wins over salaries. “When you win a green jacket, I can tell you right now that any major champion this year might not remember how much money they made,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this game and I think that’s the way it should be.”
“Everyone cares about the money. But I really don’t care,” said Colin Morikawa. “I’m going to play in these tournaments because I want to play against the best players in the world. I want to win. And whether you get $1 from him or $10 million, winning is winning… People just don’t understand how good that feels. This is what you dream about. And that’s what you like to do. That’s what you want to do. That’s why you train.”
The arrival of LIV Golf and its life-changing payroll shifted the balance of professional golf away from “victory in itself” and toward “show me the money”. LIV’s promise of uncut tournaments with $4 million in prize money waiting for the winner has lured a lot of players away. Some framed their decision to leave the PGA Tour as a protest against the tour’s operations. Others were more direct.
No tournament on the PGA Tour – in fact, in all of golf – is more about the fucking money than the Tour Championship. After that first prize of $18 million, the value of the portfolio drops dramatically. FedEx Cup runner-up earns a salary of $6.5 million; Third place with $5 million. Both are amazing sums, but given how tight the field is heading into the weekend, we could be looking at a situation where a single missed strike could be worth more than $10 million.
But Ram insists that what if does not enter his mind. “We don’t think if we miss a shot how much it’s going to cost us financially. There’s no chance. Like, absolutely nothing. You’re trying to finish as high as possible. You’re trying to win the championship.”
Both Ram and Morikawa admitted that they had the luxury of not worrying about money at all. Ram attracted the interest of sponsors before winning his first professional championship, and Morikawa won so quickly in his career that he skipped the kind of financial concerns that confuse players at the bottom of the leaderboard… well, you know, the most watched audience.
However, for Ram, there is a cost to obsessing over money. “If you want to be a great player, you have to strive to win instead of thinking about your bank account,” he said.