Prize money in golf is the issue that has, this year, ripped the sport apart.
The determination of the LIV Golf breakaway players to stand by their decision to play Saudi-backed $20m one-off tournaments, rather than compete on the PGA and European Tours, has changed the game beyond recognition, and the relationship between many of its star names.
Rightly or wrongly the LIV players say they deserve a greater share of the revenue pie from a sport that generates £1.27bn ($1.5bn) in revenues every year. The PGA has responded by bumping up total prize money across its tour from £309m ($367m) to £360m ($427m).
More is promised next year too, with eight tournaments benefitting from an additional £38m ($45m) injection into the prize pot.
This weekend the world’s best golfers – including LIV players – are at St Andrews battling it out for perhaps the most coveted prize in this sport: the Claret Jug.
The 2022 Open Championship has already produced plenty of drama, from Tiger Woods’ tears at the 18th hole, to Ian Poulter being booed and Viktor Hovland’s magnificent eagle.
Sunday will see a fairly large group of players seek to tackle the likes of Rory McIlroy and Hovland at the top of the leaderboard. The champion this year will earn around £420,000 more in prize money than what was available to Collin Morikawa in 2021.
Open Championship prize money compared
- Masters: £12.65m prize money / £2.28m for winner Scottie Scheffler
- US PGA: £12.65m prize money / £2.28m for winner Justin Thomas
- US Open: £14.76m prize money / £2.66m for winner Matt Fitzpatrick
- The Open: £11.81m prize money / £2.11m for the winner
The increase from £9.7m in 2021 to £11.81m in 2022 marks a 22 percent rise in prize money at the Open. That’s a hefty bump and comes as the sport’s other majors raise their offerings too.
The Open fee has been paid in US dollars since 2016, so this year’s overall prize money is actually $14m. And it is LIV Golf’s presence that has triggered the recent PGA hikes.
“There have been significant changes in prize money over the last year,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said. “We have therefore increased the prize fund by 22 percent, which means that the prize money has increased by more than 60 percent since 2016.
“We have made this substantial investment while balancing our wider commitments to developing golf at all levels around the world and to continuing to elevate the AIG Women’s Open.”
Earlier this week Slumbers also discussed LIV Golf without naming the breakaway league, saying the $2bn Saudi Arabian-funded venture was “not in the best long-term interests” of the sport.
“The existing golf ecosystem has successfully provided stable pathways for golfers to enter the sport and develop and realise their full potential,” Slumbers said. “Professional golfers are entitled to choose where they want to play and to accept the prize money that’s offered to them. I have absolutely no issue with that at all.
“But there is no such thing as a free lunch. I believe the model we’ve seen at Centurion and Pumpkin Ridge [host venues for the first two LIV events] is not in the best long-term interests of the sport as a whole and is entirely driven by money.
“We believe it undermines the merit-based culture and the spirit of open competition that makes golf so special. The continued commentary that this is about growing the game is just not credible and if anything, is harming the perception of our sport which we are working so hard to improve.
“We believe the game needs to focus on increasing participation, achieving greater diversity, and making sure that golf is truly open to all, rather than this narrow debate involving a small number of players.”
2022 Open Championship prize money in full
*Players paid in US dollars