The wealthiest winless players in PGA history

The "detestable greed" of the PGA Tour, alleged economic mistreatment of its members, was one of the arguments Phil Mickelson put forward when he joined the LIV two years ago

by Andrea Gussoni
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The wealthiest winless players in PGA history
© Francois Nel / Getty Images Sport

The "detestable greed" of the PGA Tour, alleged economic mistreatment of its members, was one of the arguments Phil Mickelson put forward when he joined the LIV two years ago. Others followed suit, and ultimately, the PGA Tour itself, which primarily addressed the issue by increasing player compensation.

Through prize purses, programs like the Player Impact Program (PIP), designed to generously reward the most media-friendly players, and, in the near future, through ownership of the organization, which will partially transfer to its members through a distribution of shares—a model unprecedented in professional sports—thanks to the agreement with the Strategic Sports Group, a conglomerate of American billionaires investing $3 billion in the business.

Liv, history

Is Phil Mickelson's narrative sustainable? It must be conceded that since the emergence of the Saudi Super League and its multimillion-dollar signing bonuses, the lower class of this sport has seen improved conditions.

Now, the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, offers $150,000 to those who play a minimum of 15 tournaments in a season, regardless of their results. And since 2022, the PGA has been paying $5,000 per missed cut to members without exemptions to play a full schedule.

Guaranteed money, after all, is the bait used by the LIV in their signings. A method that the American tour validates by buying it (although in amounts unrelated to the estimated $600 million contract of Rahm, for example), tarnishing the "meritocracy" it likes to boast about.

Because the truth is, before all this disruption, the tour's pay scale was just that—pure meritocracy. Play well? You'll earn a lot of money. Play poorly? Don't expect to become a multimillionaire. And playing well didn't even necessarily mean winning.

Here's the data that partially debunks Mickelson's argument: to date, 17 players have pocketed more than $10 million in prize money, essentially a full life without financial headaches, without winning a single tour event.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who has two runner-up finishes in major tournaments (the US Open and the British Open), has reached $20 million. Why? Because of his consistency: he has finished in the top 10 33 times and has only missed 21 cuts since joining in 2017.

The wealthiest winless players in PGA Tour history: 1-Tommy Fleetwood, $20,948,898 2-Cameron Tringale, $17,310,004 3-Byeong Hun An, $15,846,169 4-Denny McCarthy, $13,963,392 5-Patrick Rodgers, $13,524,151 6-Brian Davis, $13,382,405 7-Briny Baird, $13,251,178 8-Cameron Young, $13,071,284 9-Alex Noren, $12,979,988 10-Jeff Overton, $12,790,635 11-Brendon de Jonge, $11,568,484 12-Graham DeLaet, $11,265,285 13-Brett Quigley, $11,058,693 14-Beau Hossler, $10,697,785 15-Harold Varner, $10,618,502 16-Charlie Wi, $10,079,659 17-David Hearn, $10,070,854 Another player like Cameron Young, in only his third full season, has already reached $13 million.

He has five runner-up finishes to his credit, and a victory seems only a matter of time for him. Further down the list are players unknown to the masses like Beau Hossler, Charlie Wi, or David Hearn. Few have likely tuned in to watch them in action on TV or radio, or bought a newspaper or visited a website to follow them, yet there they are, with life taken care of.

And all for "hitting a ball with a stick," the star phrase of those who argue that the previous order of things was already fair. The most ironic aspect, aside from the fact that the greatest major winner in history, Jack Nicklaus (who, as far as we know, never complained about pay), ranks 357th on the all-time list of PGA Tour earnings ($5,734,031 over a career with 18 majors), a good reflection of how much this discipline has grown economically, is that, of the 17 members of the list, two have ended up in the LIV.

One is Harold Varner III, just above the $10 million mark, who has 16 top-10 finishes in 191 PGA Tour starts, figures that are not particularly dazzling. The other, Cameron Tringale, above the $17 million mark with 31 top-10 finishes in 338 tournaments (at a marathon-like average of 26 per season), and his best results in minor events.

As for Mickelson, not only a multiple winner but one of the great contemporary figures on the tour, he pocketed nearly $97 million over a journey with 45 victories, six of them in majors. Only Tiger Woods, with $120 million, surpasses him on the all-time PGA Tour earnings list.

Within the legitimate aspiration to be paid the maximum possible for one's work, some might argue that what Varner III or Tringale did with the LIV was "detestable greed." And they would probably have a hard time refuting it.

Pga Tour Phil Mickelson
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