Saturday, January 14, 2012

talking points The Big Money

Mitt Romney won’t speak French in public, but I will: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I mention this proverb because Golf Digest has published its annual ranking of the top earners in golf, and this year’s top 10 is pretty much a mirror image of last year’s. Of course, anybody who cashed enough checks to make the list isn’t complaining.

Here’s the magazine’s top 10. The first dollar amount listed is the estimate of the player’s total earnings. The amount he earned off the course is in parentheses.

1. Tiger Woods, $64,067,059 ($62,000,000)
A sure thing if there ever was one: Woods has finished at the top of Golf Digest’s list for nine consecutive years. However, his earnings last year were down by 50 percent from the $122 million he banked in 2009.

2. Phil Mickelson, $41,991,564 ($38,000,000)
Likeability makes him an especially effective corporate spokesman, the magazine says. Also finished #2 last year.

3. Arnold Palmer, $36,000,000 ($36,000,000)
Not bad for an 82-year-old. “The only person on the list to make no money on the course,” notes Golf Digest. Also finished in third place last year.

4. Jack Nicklaus, $28,955,000 ($28,800,000)
The king of the “signature” architects. “Like Palmer,” says Golf Digest, “will always have value.” Up from #5 in 2011.

5. Greg Norman, $22,825,118 ($22,750,000)
Set the standard for professional golfers who desire to become conglomerates. “The most successful businessman ever among ex-players,” says the magazine. Down from #4 in 2011.

6. Luke Donald, $21,683,497 ($8,500,000)
Still making big bucks on the course. Topped the money list on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Up from #10 in 2011.

7. Ernie Els, $18,409,442 ($17,000,000)
Greg Norman lite. Is believed to have a design project in Cuba, but nobody at his firm will confirm it. Also ranked #7 in 2011.

8. Gary Player, $16,014,486 ($16,000,000)
Described as “the first of the globe-trotting golfers.” Turns 77 this year. Also ranked #8 in 2011.

9. Sergio Garcia, $15,851,441 ($12,250,000)
Finished #11 last year. Golf Digest’s challenge: “Imagine what he will be worth if he ever wins a major.”

10. Bill Haas, $15,354,785 ($1,000,000)
Wasn’t ranked in 2011. Does that make him a flash in the pan?

The next five: Rory McIlroy (up from #24), Lee Westwood (down from #9), K. J. Choi (“a marketing machine in his homeland”), Adam Scott (“his good looks sell”), and Matt Kuchar (“cashes a check every time he tees it up”).

Rounding out the top 20: Webb Simpson (total: $10,217,934), Dustin Johnson (“another guy with the endorsement world at his feet if he can win a major”), Padraig Harrington (“being a really nice guy with three major championships is a lucrative combination”), Ryo Ishikawa (“one of the biggest endorsement earners in Japan”), and Darren Clarke (“extremely charming at corporate functions”).