ESPN reported on Wednesday that 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed will play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series. They join decorated golfers Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, all of whom are participating in the inaugural event beginning today at the Centurion Club outside London.
Looking at the prize money at stake, it’s no mystery why golfers are defecting from the PGA Tour to join the circuit backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. Not only are the LIV events more lucrative than a typical tour stop, they also dole out more than golf's four major tournaments, which are independent of the PGA Tour. The total purse for this week’s tournament is $25 million, exactly double the $12.5 million given out at last year’s iteration of the U.S. Open, which will take place next week in Brookline, Mass.
LIV Golf’s payout at each ranking is significantly higher than the equivalent prize money for a typical major. The winner’s prize of $4 million dwarfs the U.S. Open’s $2.25 million, and the ratio increases further down in the rankings. The last-place finisher in London will take home a minimum of $120,000, nearly four times the $32,000 that the 48th ranked golfer in the 2021 U.S. Open made.
LIV Golf is distributing its pool of cash across just eight events with 48 participants each. In contrast, there are nearly 50 PGA Tour tournaments a year, and 156 players compete in each major championship other than The Masters.
The average golfer in LIV Golf’s London event will make $521,000, more than the fifth place finisher of the 2021 U.S. Open. That’s in part due to the smaller lineup of players, but at the Open, players who made the cut and finished outside the top 48 combined to make $590,000, a small percentage of the overall purse. The driving factor is that there is just far more money available in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
The roster of 48 players for this weekend’s tournament includes many players from the Asian tour, as well as some amateurs, but also 11 players who have racked up at least eight figures in prize money on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson, currently ranked 72 in the world, is the winningest golfer in the field, having won six majors and 45 PGA tour events. His $95 million in career prize money, however, pales in comparison to the roughly $200 million that Mickelson reportedly will receive simply by joining LIV. That paycheck should bring his career earnings over $1 billion, including endorsements.
In press conferences earlier this week, players were asked about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the extent to which their decision to join a Saudi-backed tour was motivated by money. Several golfers were fairly direct in admitting cash was a factor.
“Myself, Dustin and Louis have played all around the world for 20 years chasing paychecks," said Graeme McDowell. "Outside of the majors and the Ryder Cup, it's a business. We love the sport, we love competing, but the purse we are playing for any given week, the appearance money, we are running a business here. What is the best financial outcome for me for my time spent?”
When asked if it was all about the money for the players, Mickelson said: “I don’t necessarily agree with your premise, but I think that the opportunity that it provides me to play, compete, bring the sport throughout the world, play less, and have a better balance in life on and off the golf course. I know that it gives me a lot of positives personally and professionally, and I believe it does the same for everyone else in the field.”