Tiger Woods first $99 million golfer

July, 2, 2012
With his win Sunday at the AT&T National, Tiger Woods passed the surreal number of $99 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

Readers can insert their own joke here regarding where half of that money is going now.

Trivia question

Phil Mickelson has two career PGA Tour victories in starts between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. Can you name them? (Answer below)
The $100 million contract is nothing new to leagues such as the NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball, but this total is completely unprecedented on the PGA Tour. Woods has long been the circuit's all-time leader in career earnings. In fact, no other player has made $70 million in his career.

It's no coincidence that Woods' career arc mirrored that of the PGA Tour's growth in purses and annual revenues. With Tiger reaching the $100 million milestone, we at Numbers Game would like to offer some perspective on the difference Woods has helped make in the bank accounts of touring pros over the past 15 or so years.

  • In August 1996, Tiger Woods turned pro. At the end of 1995, the PGA Tour's all-time leader in career earnings was Greg Norman -- with $9.6 million. Tiger has made more than 10 times that amount on the PGA Tour in his career so far.

  • In fact, Tiger has made more than $9.6 million in PGA Tour earnings in four different single seasons. In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009, Woods made more than $9.6 million. Vijay Singh holds the PGA Tour single-season record for earnings, making $10.9 million in 2004.

  • In 1996, Tom Lehman led the PGA Tour in money earned at $1.78 million. In 2012, 25 players have already made more than that. Lehman's total would have placed him 49th on the Tour in 2011.

  • Jack Nicklaus made about $5.7 million in tournament winnings in his PGA Tour career. Woods has made almost that much just this year ($4.2 million). Notable players to make more than three times Nicklaus' career total include Jeff Sluman, Charles Howell III, Stephen Ames and Chad Campbell.

  • Before Woods did it in 1997, no player had ever made more than $2 million in a single season on the PGA Tour. In 2009, a record 38 players made at least $2 million.

  • In 1995, Tiger's last full year as an amateur, only nine PGA Tour players made $1 million. In 2008, 104 players made at least $1 million (also a record for the PGA Tour).

  • In 1995, the 125th-ranked player on the PGA Tour money list was John Wilson, who made $149,280. Last year, No. 125 on the money list was D.J. Trahan, who made more than four times that amount (more than $668,000).

    This isn't to say Woods is the lone reason the sport's purses have exploded, but it would be ridiculous to think he hasn't played a large role in the sport's financial expansion. Every professional player in the world -- and their accountants -- should be grateful for this growth.

    The PGA Tour is in West Virginia this week for The Greenbrier Classic. The event features a strong field this year, with 13 different major champions in the mix. "Three on the tee" takes a glance at a trio of those players teeing it up this week at the Old White Course:

    Tiger Woods: While we're on the subject of Woods, only Sam Snead stands between him and the PGA Tour's all-time victory record. Tiger stands at 74, eight shy of Snead's record total of 82. For what it's worth, Snead was about seven years older than Woods was at the time of PGA Tour win No. 74.

    Tiger makes his debut at The Greenbrier this week, a resort where Snead once held the title of emeritus pro. Recent history says not to bet on Tiger making it two victories in two weeks, though. Woods has not won in his first career start at an active PGA Tour event since 1999.

    Much has been made -- and for good reason -- about the drastic improvement Woods has made in his ball-striking in 2012 (his driving accuracy rank is up nearly 140 positions over last year). Don't discount Tiger's better putting, though. Woods is No. 4 on the PGA Tour this year in putts made of 10 feet or shorter (89.8 percent). Tiger would have been T-118th and T-84th in 2010 and 2011, respectively, had he played enough rounds to qualify.

    Webb Simpson: The U.S. Open champion held a share of the 36-hole lead in this event last year before winding up tied for ninth. He missed the cut here in 2010, but it's hard to even consider that version of the Old White the same course as the 2011 version. Sixteen holes underwent changes after the birdie barrage two years ago that featured Stuart Appleby carding a 59 to win.

    Simpson leads the Tour this year in birdie average and is fifth in birdie-or-better conversion percentage. Five of Simpson's past six rounds have been sub-70 (that, of course, includes Saturday and Sunday at the U.S. Open), but he ranked No. 58 at the Travelers Championship in strokes gained -- putting. If Simpson can get a few more putts to fall (he missed nine shorter than 10 feet in the last three rounds in Connecticut), he should be in contention this week.

    Trivia answer

    Question: Phil Mickelson has two career PGA Tour victories in starts between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. Can you name them?

    Answer: In 2001 and 2002 at the Greater Hartford Open (now the Travelers Championship).

    Phil Mickelson: The current world No. 15 doesn't normally play a PGA Tour event between the U.S. Open and Open Championship. This will be the first time since 2007 that Mickelson has done so, and just the third time since 2004.

    Lefty missed the cut at The Greenbrier last year by two shots and this week will be making his first start since the U.S. Open. A hopefully refreshed Phil will look to snap a streak of five straight rounds over par on Thursday. Mickelson has not had a streak of six rounds worse than par on the PGA Tour since 2009.

    Justin Ray is a senior researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He has contributed to ESPN's golf coverage since joining the network out of college in 2008. He is based in Austin, Texas, with the Longhorn Network. Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.

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