I recently watched former pro golfer turned YouTuber Rick Shiels do an interview with Viktor Hovland where the Norwegian spoke about the experience of winning a Tour event. One question that arose was when pro golfers get paid after a tournament.
Hovland gave valuable insight into the procedure after winning a tournament. Knowing how to swing a golf club is one piece of the puzzle, but in this post, I’ll take you through the administrative side of being a professional golfer.
Aside from unveiling when the paycheck clears their bank account, I list the other operating expenses they must account for.
Table of Contents
When Do Golfers Get Paid After a Tournament?
In his interview with Shiels, Hovland explains that a winner’s earnings hit their account on the Wednesday after DP World Tour events. Although he said he was not 100% sure, he believed it would be the same for the PGA Tour.
Therefore, it takes approximately 3 days from when a golf professional sinks the winning putt in a tournament until they receive their money.
How Much of Their Winnings Do Golfers Keep?
3 factors impact the total winnings that pro golfers keep. These are state tax, transfer, and caddy fees. The PGA Tour deducts State tax, and the transfer fees are docked by the bank. Whatever remains appears in their account on the Wednesday following the event.
The PGA professional then transfers the agreed fee to their caddy, which ESPN suggests is a minimum of 5%. This fee varies depending on the agreement the player and caddy have. For example, Matt Kuchar made the headlines when he paid his caddie $5,000 after winning nearly $1.3 million.
I have also included their expenses for the week to provide a more accurate idea of the net prize money. However, I excluded flights because of the variation in professionals’ home bases and the tournament locations. Plus, some players fly in private jets, which leads to fluctuating prices.
Let’s say that a player spends $450 per night on accommodation for them and their caddy. Add an extra $100 to $200 for food per day, and multiply that by 6 for the entire week.
Here’s an estimate of the total winnings a golfer keeps for the Masters, PGA Championship, and US Open:
|Tournament||Masters||PGA Championship||U.S Open|
|State Tax||7.31% (Augusta)||8.52%||5%|
|Locker Room Fee||$50||$50||$50|
|Caddy Fee (5%)||$135,000||$108,000||$112,500|
*These figures exclude airfare. Caddie fees and state tax may vary depending on the municipality of the event.
Based on the information in the table, we see that professionals lose between 10 to 12% of the advertised tournament purse. Obviously, that is without factoring in the cost of transport and a varying fee for caddies.
I know some golfers who pay 10% of their earnings to their caddie if they win, so that number fluctuates as well.
Average Winning of a PGA Tour Golfer
Sports Illustrated reported that the average winnings of a PGA professional in 2021 was $1,485,055. This is the highest that the average has ever been, up over $400,000 from the shortened 2020 season. 2018 is the next best season. That year, players bagged an average of $1,329,295 from PGA Tour event earnings.
We have come a long way from 1996 when $181,000 was the base salary for players. These days, your bank account can look healthy even if you play to par.
The challenge with looking at the average winnings is that it fails to view the overall picture. Not every pro is raking in millions. The guys at the bottom end of the Tour money list struggle to keep their cards and face the threat of relegation to the Korn Ferry (previously Nationwide Tour).
Do Pro Golfers Get Paid to Play Tournaments?
Yes, professional golfers play for prize money, and their income is performance-based. Think of it as a commission-only sales job. The better you perform, the more money you make. Appearance fees are not as common today, given the lucrative purse offered. But the practice still occurs outside of the PGA Tour.
1999 Australian Masters champion Craig Spence once recalled a time when sponsors coughed up appearance fees which eased the pain of pricey long-haul flights. It also allowed up-and-coming players to focus on their golf and not worry about sinking themselves into debt should they miss the cut.
These fees also entice the world’s best to make the journey to an International event. In 2013, Tiger Woods was offered $3 million to tee off in the Turkish Airlines Open. The DP World Tour dips into its marketing budget to draw world-class fields to events, calling it a Promotional Service Fee.
Events in Europe, Asia, and Africa do not offer much in the form of prize money.A top ten payday is rough, but a 60th place finisher would earn a pittance. Therefore, the events need to incentivize top players by forking out an upfront fee.
The reality is that the world’s top players will attract crowds. Plus, they drive revenue from the accommodation, tickets, merchandise, and food and beverage. As a result, it makes financial sense for the Tour to pay an upfront marketing expense.
Therefore, if you play on the PGA Tour, your income stems from your results on the golf course and endorsement deals. However, the top players may receive an appearance fee when playing in events outside of the United States.
Do Pro Golfers Make Money If They Miss The Cut?
The only professional events where professionals get paid for missing the cuts are in majors. For example, golfers who missed the cut at the 2022 Masters Championship still walked away with $10,000. However, in regular Tour events, a missed cut equals 2 days of free labor.
One chap from my high school golf team plays on the Sunshine Tour. He has played 8 events and missed 5 cuts. Fortunately, he has a victory and 2 top 15 finishes. Otherwise, his financial advisor would be tearing their hair out.
Ultimately, if a professional wants a guaranteed payday they need to make the cut or be playing in a major tournament.
How Is Golf Purse Distribution?
When the PGA Tour determines the total purse for an event, they assign a percentage of the purse to each position. The Tour saves 18% of the pie for the winner,10.8% for 2nd place, and 6.8% for 3rd. The 4th placed golfer takes a 4.8% slice of the total, the 5th takes 4%, and the 6th 3.6%.
The 7th position walks away with 3.35%, 8th with 3.1%, and 9th with 2.9%. The tenth best player in the tournament enjoys 2.7% of the winnings. Prize money distribution continues up to the 70th placed golfer, assigned 0.2%.
Let us look at the 2022 Masters for a clearer picture of the purse distribution. Scottie Scheffler donned the green jacket and cashed a cheque for $2.7 million, which was 18% of the $15 million purse. 2nd place Rory McIlroy banked $1.62 million, 10.8% of the total purse.
Cam Smith and Shane Lowry tied for third and grabbed $870,000 each. The 3rd place prize of $1,020,000 is added to the 4th place value of $720,000. This totals $1,740,000. When divided by 2, it leaves us with $870,000. Obviously, these figures do not follow the pattern as the prize money is split between two positions.
Otherwise, the trend continues with Collin Morikawa, who finished alone in 5th. He took home $600,000 which is 4% of the total $15,000,000 purse.