Before Tiger Woods hit a golf ball as a pro on the PGA Tour, he’d signed a contract with Nike worth more than $100 million. Today he’s a billionaire.
In 2017, at 28-years-old, Rory McIlroy had reportedly earned more than $200 million (and “plenty more where that came from”), most of which came via off-course sponsorships.
These facts are rarely, if ever, mentioned by the media, when framing Woods and McIlroy as somehow virtuous for not taking the LIV’s “blood money.”
On the other hand, over the past three PGA Tour seasons (2020-2022), spanning 74 total starts, Harold Varner III has earned $5,367,754, for an average of $1,789,251 per season.
Now, this is a good annual salary, no doubt. But Tour players are all independent contractors, meaning they each operate as their own small business. And so that $1.7 million is HV3 LLC’s gross revenue, not HV3’s personal income. After it pays for agents, caddie, travel, lodging, and taxes, Varner himself ends up with something closer to $700k – still a very nice income but not enough to set your family up for life.
By signing with LIV Golf, Varner will reportedly earn $15 million up front, with the opportunity to make millions more in the big-money series, where first-place pays $4 million and last-place awards over $100k.
“The truth is, my life is changing,” wrote Varner in a statement posted to social media. “The opportunity to join LIV Golf is simply too good of a financial breakthrough for me to pass by.
“I know what it means to grow up without much. This money is going to ensure that my kid and future Varners will have a solid base to start on – and a life I could only dreamt about growing up.”
His explanation was met (mostly) with appreciation and applause from golf fans and colleagues.