For about a year and a half, the PGA Tour was battling with LIV Golf for the top league in the world. LIV, the league backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, had plenty of controversy surrounding it. But it also had a ton of money, which it used to lure many PGA Tour players over. The tactic didn't work for every golfer, but enough defected to the other league to make PGA Tour organizers sweat.
In response, the PGA Tour announced it was going to increase its purse payouts. Certain tournaments would be "designated" events, offering $100 million in prize money to participants. It was the Tour's attempt at keeping players loyal to the legacy league instead of jumping ship.
The merger of the PGA Tour and LIV is a whole other discussion, but one player benefitted from the leagues battling more than any other. As of this writing, Scottie Scheffler has played in 18 events in the PGA Tour season. He's earned $18.5 million, making him the Tour's first $1 million per tournament golfer.
Scheffler set the record for most earnings in a single golf season in 2022, and he's already broken that record this year. He's the No. 1 player in the world and hasn't missed a single cut, finishing in the top 15 in every event he's played in. There's no doubt his talent has helped him set a new record-high in earnings. But the PGA Tour changing its purses has played a significant factor, too.
Consider the WM Phoenix Open. Scheffler won the February tournament in 2022, taking home $1.5 million. He repeated with another victory this year, but the purse had been upped to $20 million. That means Scheffler's earnings were $3.6 million — more than double what he had won just one year before. Scheffler also made $4.5 million this year after winning The Players Championship, the Tour's top event.
Other golfers are reaping the benefits, too. Jon Rahm has made $15.2 million on the course this year, behind only Scheffler for the most in a season. Players are earning millions even if they're not victorious. In fact, three golfers — England's Tyrrell Hatton and Americans Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele — have made at least $7 million apiece without winning an event. Before this season, not a single golfer had achieved that feat.
One of the reasons the PGA Tour decided to merge with LIV Golf is that it simply couldn't keep up from a financial perspective. LIV Golf had the backing of the Saudis' sovereign wealth fund, essentially a bottomless bank account. The PGA Tour has already dipped into $100 million of its reserves for its schedule and legal fees, a business model PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan called unsustainable.
Throughout the whole ordeal, many players remained loyal to the PGA Tour. A key question now is how those players will be compensated, if at all. Not everyone has had the same success as Scheffler and Rahm. For a league that preached loyalty, it will look bad for the PGA Tour to turn its back on the players who stuck around.