The PGA Tour has protected the elite standing of the Players Championship as the richest show on earth by guaranteeing the champion a record $3.6m (£2,746,800) from an overall prize fund of $20m (£15,262,000) available at TPC Sawgrass.
When Rory McIlroy collected $2.25m for winning golf's unofficial fifth major in 2019 from a prize fund of £12.5m, the United States Golf Association (USGA) restored financial parity with The Players by matching those lofty figures as US Open winner Gary Woodland triumphed at Pebble Beach.
“We are paid as much as people are willing to pay us, I guess,” said McIlroy ahead of this week's event. “You can say the same thing about footballers or any other athletes. You could argue that they’re paid too little or too much, but you’re only worth what people are willing to pay you.
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I’d say at this point we’re fairly paid. The top guys earn a lot of money, and I think that’s right. Even the guys that are not at the top, they still earn a really, really good living. I think it’s a good structure.
The PGA Tour reacted by increasing the 2020 sum to $2.7m for the winner and a $15m prize fund. With the tournament abandoned after the first round due to the global Covid-19 pandemic two years ago, Justin Thomas carried off the enhanced first prize last year.
The 49th Players Championship will again see a huge 33% increase available in Ponte Vedra Beach on Sunday evening.
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It is a quite astonishing rise from the first time the Florida event was moved to its traditional annual home at the Stadium Course in 1982 when Jerry Pate picked up $90,000 from an overall kitty of $500,000.
The £3.6m winner's prize also doubles the $1.8m handed over to Martin Kaymer from a $10m prize fund in 2014.
46 of the world's top 50 compete in the 144-man field with The Players first prize also overtaking the $3m won by Collin Morikawa at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November.
How the Players Championship compares to the majors
- The Players Championship: $20 million prize fund/$3.6 million winner
- Masters: $11.5 million/$2.070 million
- PGA Championship: $12 million/ $2.16 million
- U.S. Open: $12.5 million/$2.25 million
- Open Championship: $11.5 million/$2.070
2022 Players Championship top 10 prize money
- Winner: $3,600,000 (£2,731,860)
- 2: $2,180,000 (£1,654,293)
- 3: $1,380,000 (£1,046,961)
- 4: $980,000 (£743,494)
- 5: $820,000 (£622,107)
- 6: $725,000 (£549,992)
- 7: $675,000 (£512,061)
- 8: $625,000 (£474,131)
- 9: $585,000 (£443,786)
- 10: $545,000 (£413,448)
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