Pat Perez said having the chance to be a part of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series was like winning the lottery. He wasn’t far off.
Perez didn’t mince his words—he rarely does—when explaining his reason for joining. It was an opportunity to play less and get paid more. He was even spotted at a welcome party in Oregon with a shirt with buttons printing $100 bills, still not enough to show what he earns.
It wasn’t the signing bonus either.
Perez made his Pumpkin Ridge debut last month. He shot 6-over 222 and finished 29th in the 48-man field without a cut. And then on Sunday at Trump National in New Jersey, Perez posted a 5-over 218 to tie for 31st.
Those two events brought him $1,804 million. Perez played on the PGA Tour for 21 years, earning just twice that for an entire season.
He single-handedly made $304,000. The other $1.5 million came from the winning team, led by Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, who paid $750,000 per player. Now consider that Perez still has five LIV tournaments to go this year, and maybe 14 money grabs next year unless he relegates, but that works.
This is the real reward for players who have defected from the PGA Tour, and especially those who haven’t made it to the big leagues – like Brooks Koepka’s younger brother (Chase) and American amateur champion James Piot – and who probably never will.
The signing bonus is an attention grabber.
There are unconfirmed reports that Phil Mickelson will receive $200 million, Johnson $150,000 and others like Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, also in the nine-figure range.
All those numbers are surpassed by what Greg Norman said: “somewhere around” from $700 million to $800 million presented to Tiger Woods. The difference is that Woods turned it down. He also never received a $3 million appearance fee for the Saudi International when it was part of the European tour schedule three years ago.
The signing fee for the biggest names represents the wealth of generations, and it turned out to be more valuable than their word.
So one week Koepka tried to rally PGA Tour loyalists to come up with a strong message and the next week was the latest addition to LIV Golf. So Henrik Stenson signed a contract pledging his full support for the European tour as the next Ryder Cup captain, and four months later he changed his mind to join the rival league.
What isn’t overlooked is how prize money — $25 million for each event — can pile up quickly. After just three events, LIV Golf alone has produced 17 millionaires.
Branden Grace leads the way with nearly $6.7 million. at three events.
Along with a signing fee the Daily Telegram reported at about $50 million, Stenson quickly cashed in on the ropes. He won at Trump National, his team finished second and the Swede walked away with $4.375 million for a week.
And there’s more to come.
As long as Saudi Arabia’s state wealth fund has money to spend — $405 million in prize money for 14 events next year, not to mention a signing bonus for players lucky enough to even get invited to the party — players will cash in. .
Sure, a majority of players are past their prime – pre-Champions Tour is how Rory McIlroy put it expertly – and it’s fair to assume they won’t put that much effort into their games because they’ve already been paid.
But just as fire can’t get enough wood, those who chase money can’t get enough of it. And there is money to be made, even for those who have already been paid well.
Johnson went from tied for 24th at the US Open to tied for third at LIV Golf-Portland. He went from tied for sixth place at the British Open to second place at LIV Golf-Bedminster.
The two majors paid him $620,349.
The two LIV Golf events netted him nearly $3.1 million. Including his two team wins, Johnson has already taken in $5.212 million in his three appearances at LIV Golf events. In his 12 starts on the PGA Tour, he made $2.3 million.
It is also lower in the food chain.
Carlos Ortiz from Mexico has played two LIV Golf events. He was second to Grace in Portland and finished fourth in Bedminster on Sunday. His team finished third both times, and that equates to $3,425 million for two weeks – 108 holes – of work.
That’s nearly $1 million more than his best season on tour. It’s also 44% of his career PGA Tour earnings from 160 tournaments Ortiz has played (including 68 times he missed the cut and got nothing but free golf balls, a free car, and access to player dinners).
Talor Gooch has played all three LIV Golf events and joins Johnson as the only players to finish in the top 10 all (Gooch’s best finish is a tie for sixth place). He walked away with $2.823 million — that’s $17,425 for each hole — including his contributions to the winning team.
LIV earnings – excluding signing bonus – amount to 31% of his career PGA Tour earnings from 118 tournaments over the past five years.
As long as the money is there – regardless of the source or purpose – the temptation will not be far behind. It remains to be determined whether money can buy respect and admiration, if that matters even more.
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