The world’s top-earning golfers
He played in only seven tournaments, and his year was over in June. Yet when it comes to making money, no one in golf or any sport can touch Tiger Woods. Thanks to a dozen multiyear, multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, Woods earned $110 million in 2008, almost three times more than his closest competitor.
Woods’ 2008 season ended when he opted for surgery after his stirring win in a playoff at the U.S. Open, where he competed with a torn knee ligament and double stress fracture in his left leg. It was his fifth win of the season and brought his on-course winnings to $6 million.
The surgery and extended layoff barely dented Tiger’s cash flow, thanks to a blue-chip roster of long-term corporate partnerships, including Accenture, Electronic Arts, Gatorade and Gillette. Those stayed intact while he recovered from surgery. Nike still writes his biggest paycheck, some $35 million annually by our estimates.
Despite a recession and Woods being sidelined, Nike’s golf division increased revenue 12 percent to $725 million last year.
|In Pictures: The top-earning golfers|
But even Woods is not immune from the global downturn. With a year to go on his contact, he parted ways with troubled General Motors’ Buick division at the end of 2008. The two had been together since 1999, but the automaker is being forced to reconsider every expense as it fights to save the company.
Woods’ golf bag didn’t sit logoless for long. AT&T announced plans to replace Buick as the corporate name on Woods’ clubs before his eagerly anticipated return to the game in February 2009 at the Accenture Match Play tournament.
While Woods, the PGA Tour’s all-time career-earnings leader, with $83 million, was able to bounce back from the loss of a big sponsor, Vijay Singh might have more problems. Singh, 46, is second only to Woods in all-time tour earnings, with $61 million during a career that includes three major titles and the distinction of being the last guy not named Tiger Woods to be ranked first in the world.
Singh recently agreed to a huge sponsorship deal with Stanford Financial, featuring the firm’s logo on Singh’s hat, shirt and golf bag – the three priciest pieces of real estate on a golfer. The deal was worth an estimated $8 million annually. But he may never see a dime after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Stanford’s chief, Allen Stanford, of a “massive ongoing fraud.”
Don’t cry for Singh, though. He had the best financial year of his life in 2008 after winning the second-ever FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus for the winner. Throw in $7 million in prize money and endorsement deals with the likes of Cleveland Golf and Footjoy, and Singh earned $37 million last year, third best in golf behind Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Our earnings estimates include all prize money, endorsement deals, golf-course design income and appearance fees earned during 2008. We excluded a couple of old-timers, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who rarely pick up a club anymore for tournament play. Despite being retired from the game, the former rivals both pull down more than $20 million annually through their golf-course design businesses and a myriad of sponsorship deals.
We did include another golf legend who made a rousing comeback last year. Greg Norman, playing in his first major in three years last summer, held the third-round lead of the British Open at the age of 53. He was the oldest 54-hole leader in the history of the major championships. Norman’s strong play helped him earn $1 million in prize money last year.
Norman’s real fortune is built on the back of his business empire, Great White Shark Enterprises. The business includes course design, real estate development, turf for athletic fields and golf courses, apparel, wine and even premium steaks. We estimate Norman earned $23 million from his assorted business ventures last year.
The highest-paid female golfer last year was Annika Sorenstam, who earned $12 million before hanging up her clubs as one of the most decorated golfers ever. Her résumé includes 89 career wins, including 10 Majors, eight Player of the Year awards and $23 million in career prize money.
Sorenstam will stay busy in her post-LPGA life. She launched her own golf academy, has a thriving course-design business and 10 corporate partners, including Callaway Golf, Kraft Foods and Rolex.
The top five: