The Tiger Woods Era Made Pro Golfers More Money Than They Could Have Dreamed Of

In an interview with ScoreGolf, Tiger Woods’ ex-coach Sean Foley vehemently defended Tiger on everything from his tipping habits to his recent performance on the course.

When talking about Tiger’s critics, Foley mentioned how Tiger single-handedly transformed the sport from a financial point of view:

“I’m not saying anyone has to be a cheerleader. But at least be fair, have some respect. I think when he came on the tour the purse was about $US70 million and this year it’s $US297 million. That escalation over 20 years is attributable to one person’s influence.”

He’s dead on.

Roger Pielke Jr. of SportingIntellgience dug through the numbers in August and outlined what he called the “Tiger Woods effect.”

He found that the PGA Tour handed out $US101 million in prize money in 1996 (Tiger’s last year as an amateur) and $US292 million in 2008 (the last year of the Tiger Woods era).

The 9.3% average annual increase in prize money during the Tiger era (1997-2008) is nearly triple the 3.4% average annual increase that the tour saw in the six years before Tiger went pro (1990-96).

Tiger wasn’t the only one to cash in. According to Pielke, the PGA Tour distributed $US3.1 billion in prize money between 1997 and 2008. If Tiger didn’t exist and the prize money kept increasing by 3.4% per year instead of 9.3% per year, the tour would have only headed out $US1.5 billion.

So ultimately Tiger doubled the amount of total PGA Tour prize money distributed during his decade of dominance, generating $US1.6 billion winnings for other professional golfers.

Some big names benefitted immensely. From Pielke:

[Mickelson] has benefitted more than anyone except Vijay Singh from the “Tiger Woods effect.” Singh earned an extra $US36 million over his career thanks to Tiger and Phil an extra $US29 million. (This is PGA tour alone).

With the golf industry struggling across the board, purses have dropped by 2.3% since Tiger’s career took a turn in 2008, according to Pielke’s numbers.

Now that the Tiger era is coming to a close, it’s becoming clearer that 1997 to 2008 was a long exception for the sport — a golden age for popularity that couldn’t last beyond his singular dominance.

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