The PGA Championship and Professional Golf’s Biggest Purses

The PGA Championship purse, one of professional golf’s four majors, has been a direct beneficiary of the PGA Tour’s format changes as a result of new competition in the form of the LIV Golf league and vast sums of new money that have flowed into pro golf.

Before the start of the 2023 season, the PGA Tour announced sweeping changes to its format and tournament schedule.  These changes included substantial increases to tournament purse sizes and payouts to top finishers.  The 2023 season featured a 140 million dollar increase in total prize money over the amount paid out during the 2022 season.  The Tour’s total purse payouts surpassed $560 million in 2023 and that number is set to rise again for the 2024 season.

While the $140 million year-over-year jump is hard to wrap our heads around, zoom out and you’ll see that the purses being paid out today are in a different solar system compared to the numbers we saw over the last 10, 20, and 30 years.  For context, the PGA Tour’s $563 million projected total is more than double the tour’s total purse just 10 years ago ($260 million in 2013) and more than $500 million from 1993 ($53,203,611).

To understand the motivation behind the PGA Tour’s decision to increase prize money, one must consider that LIV Golf paid astronomical sums to recruit some of the game’s best professional players.  It’s reported that LIV paid Phil Mickelson $200 million, Dustin Johnson $125 million, and Brooks Koepka more than $100 million to join their emerging tour and disrupt the world of golf.  And somehow making those eye-popping feel small, it’s rumored that LIV offered Tiger Woods more than $700 million to join them but the all-time great ultimately declined.

LIV’s access to an unlimited pot of money brought chaos to professional golf and the PGA Tour.  Almost suddenly, the Tour was left to ponder its longevity and standing in the world of golf.  Their solution included substantially more prize money at many of its marquee events including majors like the PGA championship purse


Sweeping Changes, Huge Money

The PGA Tour was forced to open up its checkbook to combat LIV Golf’s spending spree.  In 2024, in addition to its four annual major tournaments, the Tour season will feature 17 Designated Events that bring larger purses with them.  Eight of these events will be classified as Signature Events that feature $20 million purses.  Five of the eight Signature Events will feature smaller, no-cut fields with 18% of the purse money going to the winner while the remaining three player-hosted events (The Genesis Invitational, The Arnold Palmer Invitational, and The Memorial) will feature 36-hole cuts with 20% of the purse handed to the winning golfer.


Image Pebble Beach Golf Links

The four major tournaments also feature some of the biggest purses in professional golf with each paying more than $3 million to the winner.  While the 2024 purses won’t be revealed until the week of each tournament, it’s safe to assume that winners will again take home more than $3 million and the total overall purse size will grow as well.


The 2024 PGA Championship: Top Players, Top Dollar

The 2024 PGA Championship will be held at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, from May 13th through 19th. Reigning PGA Champion Brooks Koepka will be seeking his fourth Wanamaker Trophy in six years, while the likes of Rory McIlroy — who won at Valhalla in 2014 — other past champions like Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa, young guns like Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg, and stars seeking their first major like Xander Schauffele will be in hot pursuit.

PGA Championship Purse

Image PGA of America

Designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1986, this will be Valhalla’s fourth time hosting a PGA Championship (1996, 2000, 2014), and the first time the Championship will be played in May at the venue. Valhalla has been the site of some memorable PGA Championships, including Tiger Woods’ victory in a dramatic duel with Bob May in 2000, and Rory McIlroy’s battling darkness for a thrilling victory in 2014.

In 2019, The PGA Championship purse, sometimes thought of as “golf’s forgotten major” was moved from August of each year to May in hopes of attracting more viewers and global attention.  This took some getting used to for both players and fans but it’s now entrenched itself as an exciting addition to the heart of the PGA season schedule.

And just a few years after the schedule updates, the PGA championship prize money along with several other PGA Tour events, felt even more dramatic change with the influx of new prize money.  Brooks Koepka, winner of the 2023 PGA Championship, took home a $2.7 million first-place check.  Since the 2019 move from August to May, The PGA Championship’s winning prize has increased from $1.9 million to Koepka’s take of nearly $3 million.

The 2023 winner’s prize of nearly $3 million ranks the PGA Championship as the 3rd highest paying major in professional golf, outpacing only The Open Championship.  And somehow, in this age of ludicrously large golf purses, its total 2023 purse of $17.5 million puts this major well behind the purses of the $20 million Signature Events and even further behind the whopping $25 million paid out at The Players Championship in March at TPC Sawgrass.


The Tiger Effect



Image PGA of America

Golf’s explosion in popularity and new money coming into the game aligns perfectly with Tiger Woods’ arrival on our television screens in the late 1990s.  His never-before-seen mastery of the game brought millions of new fans and viewers to the sport and with it huge new revenues.  In 1996, the year Tiger turned professional and joined the PGA Tour out of Stanford University, the winner’s check for The PGA Championship was $430,000.  Certainly not a small sum but just a few years later, because of Tiger’s impact and popularity, the winning prize of The PGA championship payout reached $1,000,000 by 2002.

In the 20-plus years since hitting the $1 million mark, the purse for the PGA championship purse has steadily risen.  The most dramatic increase, more than a half million dollars from $2.16 million in 2022 to $2.7 million in 2023, came as a result of the PGA’s larger purses and their efforts to ward off further player defections to the infinite bankroll of LIV Golf.  

It will be fascinating to see where professional golf tournament purses go in a post-Tiger Woods world where the sport cannot consistently rely on his presence to drive eyeballs and revenues.  It’s early yet but the bankrolls behind LIV Golf and some of the PGA’s new funding sources suggest that the money faucet won’t be running dry anytime soon.

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