Lee Westwood, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and the rest of those near the top of the leader board at the Players Championship are all anxious to win on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, mostly due to the prestige that comes from emerging as the last man standing against the strongest field in golf. Not doubt, a victory will impact the career of whoever walks off with the title, regardless of what stage his career is currently in.
It will also, however, impact his bank account.
The Players Championship previously had laid claim to offering the most lucrative overall purse in professional golf, awarding $12.5 million in prize money payouts in 2019 with Rory McIlroy earning $2.25 million for his one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk. The USGA matched that total in the summer of 2019, but apparently PGA Tour officials really wanted to keep the “richest tournament in golf” title all to themselves. So in January 2020, they announced they were upping the ante at TPC Sawgrass, increasing the overall purse to $15 million and giving the winner a $2.7 million first-place prize.
Since last year’s Players was canceled after one round due to COVID, this week’s event earns the right to call itself the single most lucrative tournament in golf history. Just how big a payday is this? Here is the most recent prize money payout from the other three majors:
Masters: $11.5 million total/$2.07 million winner
PGA Championship: $11 million/$1.98 million
Open Championship: $10.75 million/$1.935 million
Put another way, you can finish in third place this week at TPC Sawgrass and still make more than $1 million. Or how about this: You can finish 22nd or better and make more money in one tournament than Arnold Palmer make in his winningest single season on the PGA Tour ($162,896 in 1971).
It’s impressive, too, when you consider the evolution of the Players prize money payout since the tournament’s inception in 1974.
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/$2.7 million
One caveat to the payday at TPC Sawgrass. The first-place check is NOT the biggest ever awarded in a tournament sanctioned by one of the primary pro golf tours. Matthew Fitzpatrick cashed a $3 million check when he won the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship in December.
Here is the prize money payout for any golfer making the cut this week at TPC Sawgrass. We’ll update the post after the end of the tournament to list how much each player walked off with from Ponte Vedra Beach.