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In the money

Woods leads golf's salary explosion

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Latest: Tuesday August 29, 2000 03:30 AM

  Tiger Woods Tiger Woods has already broken his single-season earnings record, with at least 10 events left on the tour's schedule. David Cannon/Allsport

By Jacob Luft,

As Tiger Woods would attest, it's a great time to be a professional golfer.

Networks and corporate sponsors are lining up around the block to pour more purse money into the sport. Ten years ago, the total purse money for all PGA events hovered around $46 million. In 2000, that figure has ballooned to $157 million.

Nobody is reaping the rewards of this boom more than Woods, which is fitting because he's the one mostly responsible for the growing popularity of golf in the first place.

Despite losing to Sergio Garcia on Monday night in the "Battle at Bighorn," Woods still walked away with $400,000. That pushed his winnings above the $8 million mark for this year alone, a single-season record that breaks the standard he set last year ($6,615,585).

Putting for Dough
The purses for the PGA Tour have risen astronomically since 1938, especially in the last few years.
Year  Events  Total purse 
2000  49  $157,000,000 
1999  47  $131,700,000 
1998  45  $96,050,000 
1997  45  $77,680,800 
1990  44  $46,251,831 
1980  45  $13,371,786 
1970  55  $6,751,523 
1960  41  $1,335,242 
1950  33  $459,950 
1938  38  $158,000 

In the last two seasons alone, Woods has won more money ($14,708,406) than anyone else has in a career. Davis Love III, with career earnings of $14,563,855, comes the closest.

But don't weep for the other golfers on the tour. They are more than taken care of. In fact, three other golfers -- Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Hal Sutton -- have already won more money this season than any of the top money winners did in any single season before 1999.

For the sake of comparison, golf's salary explosion has not quite reached the level of baseball yet. In 1972, Willie Mays was paid $165,000, which was a flat-out huge salary at the time. Fast forward to 2000, when similarly dominant Giants outfielder Barry Bonds makes $10,658,826.

As great as Bonds is, he is not as dominant in baseball as Woods is in golf, yet still is guaranteed significantly more money. And if his timing on the free agent market were better, Bonds could easily be a $15 million a year player.

Tiger and the Bear
To illustrate how much the money in golf has changed, take a look at Tiger Woods' earnings this year compared to Jack Nicklaus' best year. In 1972, Nicklaus became the first player to win more than $300,000 in one year and took over the all-time career earnings lead at $1,703,705.
  Jack Nicklaus  Tiger Woods 
Year   1972  2000 
Events   19  16 
Top 10 finishes   14  13 
Majors won   U.S. Open, Masters  U.S. Open, British Open, PGA 
Money   $320,542.26  $8,092,821 

Related information
Statitudes: The numbers behind Woods' historic season
Garcia defeats Woods in Battle at Bighorn
Money list
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