Ryder Cup 2012: From Tiger Woods to Keegan Bradley, Team USA's Richest Golfers

Jamie O'KeeffeContributor IIISeptember 27, 2012

Ryder Cup 2012: From Tiger Woods to Keegan Bradley, Team USA's Richest Golfers

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    With patriotic fervor blowing a gale at Ryder Cup 2012 in Chicago this weekend, it wasn't so long ago that rumblings were going around about some players being unhappy at having to let rip free gratis.

    Now, with Tiger’s dominance pretty much past tense, and more players in the prize mix most weekends of the year, there’s no disquiet* about being asked to tee off for honor alone.

    Here’s a look at how America’s biggest money-makers are faring out away from Medinah Country Club, not forgetting their many charitable donations and endeavors, of course.

    *Captains’ memo to stars: “There’s a global recession...got it?”

1. Tiger Woods

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    Can he really only be 36? Tiger Woods has been at the top since before the Internet went mainstream, and according to Forbes.com, he’s still the world’s most powerful athlete.

    His putting might not be what it once was, but the Cypress superstar still makes enough greenbacks to get by ($1.779 million so far this year).

    With Woods averaging $1.36 million in prize money for each of his 74 career tour wins, therichest.org values his total income since 1996 at $900 million, over $130 million of that relating to competition checks (minus taxes and agents’ fees).

    The endorsement deals were and are his main money-spinner, but Woods’ traumatic end to 2009 bludgeoned his brand, with AT&T, Accenture, Gatorade, Gillette, Tag Heuer and others bailing out.

    But Nike and Electronic Arts stuck by him and he has been experiencing a slight rebound effect, with the little-known Fuse Science and Rolex now signed up.

    Still, but for a costly divorce (the $100 million settlement almost equating to Woods' competitive winnings) he could be back above the magical billion-dollar barrier, a figure Forbes claimed he breached a few months before that infamous crash.

    The grubstakes might be thinner on the ground, but win another major and Woods can go back to naming his price.

2. Phil Mickelson

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    Second in the all-time prize money list with a staggering $67.645 million in the kitty since his 1992 pro entrance, Phil Mickelson could be forgiven for taking it easy.

    But 40 Tour triumphs—including four majors and one win this year—show he’s not motivated by dough alone.

    A keen pilot, the 42-year-old also designs courses, with a number of lucrative projects in China on the cards…not that he’ll be flying there solo I suspect.

    He is also second only to Woods in the sponsorship stakes, with $30 million per annum coming in from heavy-hitting commercial partners like Callaway, Barclays, KPMG, Exxon, Rolex and Amgen/Pfizer.

    Mickelson’s full portfolio pushes his total Celebrity Net Worth up towards the $180 million mark.

    All right for a lefty, eh.

3. Jim Furyk

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    One of only four golfers to have earned $50 million in their on-course careers, Florida-based Furyk boasts a handsome $52.45 million prize haul.

    His security has been garnered on the back of 16 Tour wins, including the 2003 US Open and the 2010 FedEx Cup.

    The Pennsylvanian, 42-year-old—whose many sponsors this year included 5-Hour Energy—has taken plenty stick on account of his unorthodox swing.

    Funnyman/commentator David Feherty memorably described it as akin to “an octopus falling out of a tree.”

    No prizes for guessing who’s had the last laugh.

    Considering Jack Nicklaus, with 18 majors and 55 other Tour victories, only won $5.7 million in his career, you certainly can’t question Furyk’s timing.

4. Steve Stricker

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    Tour veteran Steve Stricker has 12 PGA victories and a retirement-tempting $35.080 million in winnings to his credit.

    That’s despite having to overcome a major mid-career crisis which saw him lose his card in 2004.

    Bouncing back to become No. 2 in the world at one point in 2009, the 45-year-old from Wisconsin won this season’s opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, having taken three John Deere Classics in the previous three summers.

    Missing the cut at the 2012 Players Championship was his first two-round exit since the 2009 PGA Championship.

    It was the longest active cut streak (49) on the Tour. That’s a lot of weekend wages he’s picked up.

    And, where he once had to rely on sponsors’ exemptions, he has plenty of his own now and quite a few free passes.

5. Zach Johnson

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    With nine Tour victories, including a couple in 2012, Zach Johnson, the devout 36-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa has pocketed a heavenly $26.267 million during his career so far, with the highlight being his 2007 Masters triumph.

    Off the course, he’s built “long-lasting relationships” with top brands such as Transamerica, Titleist, McGladrey and BMW.

    They obviously see something exciting in Johnson. As he told the pgatour.com’s Helen Ross last month, “I like boring golf. That’s kind of what butters my bread, so to speak.”

    And a lot of bread he has, too.

6. Matt Kuchar

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    A four-time winner in his 12 years on Tour, Matt Kuchar has claimed $20.799 million in prize money—including golf’s biggest non-FedEx payday: the 2012 Players Championship ($1.71 million) in his native Florida.

    Based in Georgia, the 33-year-old—whose sponsors include Bridgestone Golf (since turning pro in 2000) and, more recently, Grey Goose Vodka—has experienced a topsy-turvy career, but it’s definitely on an upward curve.

    “I’d love to have that feeling every week,” he smirked after Sawgrass.

    And the envelope that goes with it, I’m sure.

7. “Bubba” Watson

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    This year’s Masters Champion, the maverick Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. is just 40 bucks shy of amassing $17 million in career winnings, according to his PGA profile.

    The monster hitter’s success at Augusta was his fourth Tour victory—all arriving in the past two years. His 2012 competition intake amounted to $4.645 million.

    But, in ranking the World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes, SportsPro figures Watson—“with a swing only a mother could love”—can’t hope to cash in as much as Rory McIlroy.

    It’s all relative, and the 33-year-old Florida tee-frightener is hot property.

    His website blurb says, “I am very blessed to work with some of the best companies in the business.” His many “partners” include EA Sports, eBay, FootJoy, Ping, Schuco and Titleist.

    Like Bubba’s birdies, they all add up nicely.

8. Brandt Snedeker

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    Brandt Snedeker, the 32-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee, has just won the richest prize in golf.

    In landing the US PGA Tour Championship in Atlanta, Snedeker claimed a $10 million bonus for clinching the FedEx Cup title.

    The $11.44M jackpot trumps the entirety of what he’d won up to now and brings him to 10th in the world rankings.

    Snedeker already had three Tour wins under his belt, accumulating $16.098 million in tournament proceeds in all. He has “a relationship” with Bridgestone Golf and Adidas, among others.

    But, as per The Washington Post, he drives the same SUV he bought on joining the PGA circuit in 2006. His recent bonanza “is not going to affect me one way or the other.”

    “Of anybody that I know I do not need $11 million. So there are going to be things we can do to really help people,” he told golf365.com.

    FedEx third-placer Justin Rose observed, “He’s mentally tough, Brandt. It’s kind of a different pressure, playing for $10 million.”

    That’s the sort of pressure I could do with.

9. Dustin Johnson

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    From Columbia, South Carolina, long-legged Dustin Johnson turned pro five years ago and has collected checks worth $16.944 million on the back of six victories and other placings.

    He’s taken home $3.394 million in 2012—despite missing three months of the season—and won the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

    Johnson banked well over $4 million during game time in each of the previous two years.

    According to his snazzy website, the 28-year-old’s sponsors include TaylorMade, Adidas, Marquis Jet, Rolex, Ashworth and Schuco—meaning he’s probably worth well over $20 million all-in.

    No wonder the ladies seem to like him.

10. Jason Dufner

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    Ultra-laid-back Cleveland native Jason Dufner, 35, has accumulated Tour earnings of $12.446 million to date, boosted by two wins this year.

    It represents a strong comeback from his 2011 PGA runner-up disappointment which saw him finish fourth on the money leaders list with $4.8 million in his wallet and a place inside the world’s top 10.

    If he keeps going at his recent rate the oldest of the Ryder Cup rookies (whose sponsors are listed on fanooz.com) will be putting his economics degree to good use.

11. Webb Simpson

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    Sitting pretty at No. 8 in the world rankings, the North Carolina native has won $12.045 million in prize money since joining the pros in 2009.

    His three Tour victories include, of course, this year’s US Open.

    Delighted, no doubt, were the bosses at Polo Ralph Lauren, with whom he signed a multi-year brand ambassador deal in 2010, as well as other sponsors such as FootJoy.

    Last year the 27-year-old had a chance to take the FedEx first prize, having won the Deutsche Bank Championship play-off event.

    He came second, and also finished runner-up on the PGA money list with well over $6 million tucked away.

    This year he dipped to 15th. But all the money in the world wouldn’t buy that major.

12. Keegan Bradley

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    Having won on his maiden major appearance at the 2011 PGA Championship, Keegan Bradley was 2011 Rookie of the Year.

    The tall, punchy 26-year-old has chalked up two other wins since getting his card at the second attempt, and his Tour earnings to date total $7.669 million.

    Though he’s not the quickest on the fairways, Bradley hasn’t wasted any time in striking while his irons are hot: Cleveland Golf, Tommy Hilfiger Golf and Zurich are among Bradley’s backers.