Believe it or not, there are people out there who believe Tiger Woods’ domination of the PGA Tour has made the game less interesting.
There are also numerous people out there who in some way pity the rest of the Tour players for rarely being able to beat Woods.
The fact of the matter is that Tiger Woods has done more for the game of golf and more for the rest of the players on tour than could have ever been foreseen.
In 1986, ten years before Tiger’s arrival on the tour, Greg Norman was the Tour’s leading money winner with total earnings of $653,296.
In 1986, a golfer by the name of Bill Isrealson was ranked 130th on the money list , the cutoff point to keep his Tour card, with total earnings of $58,236.
The top 130 players on Tour qualify to keep their tour card without the demoralizing thought of having to attend Q-School again.
Jumping ten years ahead to 1996, the year Tiger arrived on the Tour, the leading money winner on tour was Tom Lehman, who’s earnings totaled $1.78 million. The 130th ranked player on the money list, Stuart Appleby, earned $164,483.
In 2005, ten years after Tiger’s arrival on the PGA Tour, The leading money winner was Woods himself with total earnings of $10.6 million, the 130th ranked player on the money list, Michael Allen, earned $591,829.
In 2007, Tiger topped the PGA Tour money list with earnings of $10.9 million. Brett Quigley was ranked 130th on the money list with earnings of $717,411.
To put all of these numbers into perspective, in the ten years prior to Woods’ arrival, the total earnings of the PGA Tour’s leading money winner increased by 62%.
Ten year’s after Tiger’s arrival, the earnings of the Tour’s leading money winner increased by nearly 84%.
This essentially indicates that in Woods’ first ten years on Tour, he played a large part in making everyone on Tour at least 22% richer than they would have been had he not been there.
The winner of the 1996 Masters won $450,000. Trevor Immelman just earned $1.35 million with his victory at the 2008 Masters. That is an increase of 67% in the twelve years since Woods has been playing in the Masters.
In 1996, it was rare to see a tournament where the first place prize money amounted to more than $500,000.
In 2008, a golfer’s life can literally change in a period of 4 days as you will be hard pressed to find a tournament where the first place prize money isn’t somewhere around $1 million.
Back in 1996, the 130th player on the money list, Stuart Appleby, was struggling to regain his tour card and was earning a mere $164,483. After travel costs and the 10% paid to his caddie, Appleby would have severely struggled to make a living playing golf.
In 2007, the 130th ranked player on the Tour’s money list, Brett Quigley, made $717,411. After travel costs and his caddie’s 10%, Quigley would still have made somewhere in the vicinity of half a million dollars.
Tiger Woods can occasionally make the PGA Tour seem like a repetitive exercise each week as he proceeds to win one tournament after another.
And I can see why there are people out there who in some way feel for players such as Phil Mickelson, Vijay Sing and Jim Furyk, because if Woods were not around, all of these players would have amassed many more victories by now.
But Woods has made the lives, and particularly the pockets, of each and every player on the PGA Tour better.
In 1996, there were fifteen players on Tour who earned over $1 million or more.
In 2007, there were 99 players on Tour who earned $1 million or more.
That represents a nearly 85% increase in the number of millionaires on the PGA Tour since Woods’ arrival 12 years ago.
This increase in earnings is not even taking into account the amount of money sponsors are now throwing at players due to the growing popularity of the game.
The top 25 players in the world will earn additional tens of millions of dollars through sponsorships and endorsements; this money was unheard-of in golf before Woods’ arrival.
There are several aspects that have contributed to the massive increase in PGA Tour prize money. The increase in the general popularity of the game, the increase in the demand for PGA Tour event tickets, the increase in sponsorship and advertising money and the increase in money involved in television contracts have all contributed to the overall increase in prize money.
But, it is utterly impossible to mention any of these aspects without mentioning Tiger Woods in the same sentence.
The fact is that Tiger Woods has almost single handedly created a plethora of millionaires on the PGA Tour who would have otherwise never amassed even a hint of the money they are currently earning.
Woods has undoubtedly benefited more than anyone by his success, he is now valued by Forbes at over $500 million, but in the process he has also created hundreds of other millionaires on the PGA Tour.
Though golfers invariably want to win tournaments; I don’t think there are too many PGA Tour players who would complain about the improvements in their earnings and overall quality of life that has been provided to them in very large part by Tiger Woods.