The PGA Tour does not operate or control any of the four majors, so The Players is their baby. They do everything they can to push and promote it as the game's "fifth major" and one of the big ways they try to achieve that status is having the richest purse in golf.
The Players has been the most lucrative single event on the PGA Tour for several years now, but a 2013 announcement the PGA Tour made in conjunction with the PGA of America set off an arms race of sorts. In that press conference, Tim Finchem of the Tour and Ted Bishop of the PGA of America announced together that they were moving the purse of their organizations' marquee events to $10 million. It was a dramatic increase, and one that, for the PGA Championship, zoomed it past the Masters. U.S. Open, and Open Championship.
The other three majors all made significant jumps toward that $10 million mark last year, but The Players and the PGA still held the title as richest purse in golf. The numbers from some of the big events in golf last year:
- Players Championship/PGA Championship -- winner took $1.8M of $10M purse
- British Open -- winner took $1,665,788 of $9.19 million purse
- Masters/U.S. Open -- winner took $1.62M of $9M purse
But this year, the green jackets at Augusta, who keep their purse under wraps beforehand, decided to match the $10 million mark and Jordan Spieth walked away with a $1.8 million check.
Chris Kirk, who held the 54-hole lead, has $11,323,500 in career earnings. He's an accomplished player with three Tour wins. He made a major run at winning last year's FedExCup and probably should have made the USA Ryder Cup team, but this would obviously be the biggest win and biggest payday of his career.
Two players lurking just behind Kirk at the start of the final round are Billy Horschel and Bill Haas, who have already bagged that $10 million bonus windfall for winning a FedExCup. That's the biggest check you can earn in the game, but it comes after a four-event postseason. A Players win would be the biggest single victory in both of their careers, although both are obviously not hurting for money after those FedExCup titles.
The event is not without its critics, who say TPC Sawgrass and The Players are overhyped and marketed by a Tour desperate to have an event that's the peer of the majors. It does not have the prestige of a major, but the money will always be major championship level. Even with the Masters now matching their $10 million mark, I would expect, so long as Tim Finchem is around, that The Players will always at least share a claim to the "richest purse in golf" title.
The Players purse is so big that even the guy who doesn't win can take home seven figures. The second-place finisher, if there are no ties, hauls $1.08 million.
UPDATE: Here are the final full field payout totals:
|T30||Bo Van Pelt||-4||$58,125|
|T56||Charles Howell III||E||$22,200|
|T63||Brendon de Jonge||1||$21,200|
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