Golf's Richest Players 2015

Phil Mickelson is firmly one of the richest players in golf
Phil Mickelson is firmly one of the richest players in golf
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It's no secret that golfers are well paid for what they do. What is less reported is that for the elite - the multiple major winners whose exploits have made them household names - it is away from the course where the real money is to be made.

Sponsorships, course design work, celebrity appearances and any number of endorsements mean that for someone like Rory McIlroy, whose career earnings already run into the tens of millions, prize winnings account for only a fraction of his total income.

That is why golf's own rich list is dominated by those players who have been around for a while. Rory may be catching up quickly, but with several decades of endorsements behind them it is the old guard who dominate the top of the list. And at the very top of the pile is the daddy of them all.

Arnold Palmer

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Arnold Palmer, with seven majors to his name and a loyal army of enduringly affectionate fans, is golf's singularly most wealthy individual. Arnie's endorsement for a product is still worth its weight in gold. And since Arnie has been energetically putting his name to a host of golfing merchandise for more than half a century it is easy to see why his fortune of a cool $675 million is as substantial as it is. Arnie has a drink named after him as well as an airport and countless other less dramatic products. There is a happy accident of demographics that means Arnie's generation are still spending freely, and they, along with legions of younger fans, clearly retain a strong affection for the man they used to hail as 'the King'. At 86 years of age, Arnie is still the main man.

Tiger Woods

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Tiger Woods' herculean feats take some beating but even Tiger has to take second billing in this list. Of course, the unfortunate events of 2009, his subsequent divorce, and an all-too-painful decline in form have since slowed the rate at which Tiger fills the coffers, but it is worth noting that even allowing for his recent problems her remains amongst the most highly paid athletes in the world today. His enduring relationship with Nike as well as his seemingly undiminished international profile ensures that his net worth of $550 million is still an eye-watering figure. And Tiger is still only 40.

Whether or not his career returns to the heights he once scaled, Woods can already boast 14 majors, 79 US career wins (second only to Sam Snead's 82) and 40 European tour wins (which puts him third on the European all-time list behind Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer). No one in the modern era comes close to matching his pan-global winning record or the absolute competitive dominance he achieved at the height of his powers.

Greg Norman

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Greg Norman flies the flag for Australia on golf's rich-list with a net worth of $300 million. The Great White Shark's distinctive look and his brand of adventurous golf made him a marketing man's dream. Two career majors and a total of 90 tournament victories speak of a talent that just kept on delivering throughout the 1980s and 1990s - even if there was that memorable lapse at the Masters in 1996 which handed the green jacket to a grateful Nick Faldo. Great White Shark Enterprises supplements Norman's sponsorships with a diverse range of ventures including golf course design, real estate, Australian meat exports and wine production.

Jack Nicklaus

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Jack Nicklaus has perhaps not pursued the accumulation of wealth with the same energy as some of his rivals, but the Golden Bear's unmatched record of 18 major victories (and 19 second-placed finishes) puts him at the top of a very different list. Norman is still the benchmark that every aspiring great is measured against. To date, no-one has matched him.
A net worth of $280 million indicates that Norman hasn't been simply resting on his laurels since he last lifted a major trophy in 2005. In that year his Nicklaus Design company, run by Nicklaus and his four sons, was responsible for 299 courses - a figure equivalent to 1% of all the golf courses in the world. He has also been active in the media where his instructional videos still top the all-time sales chart.

Gary Player

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Gary Player is another of the golden generation who dominated golf in the 1960s and 1970s. Along with Nicklaus and Palmer he made up the 'Big Three' who, backed by the nascent IMG management group, thrust golf into the mainstream. With a total of 165 professional tournament victories worldwide, including a career grand slam, Player's competitive edge was reinforced by iron self-discipline and a famously rigorous fitness regime. And of course, his abundant energy has been put to good commercial use in the years since he was in his prime.

In addition to playing on the Seniors Tour, Player's golf course design business has delivered over 300 course designs in 35 countries. With a personal net worth of $200 million, Player is also a lively advocate and sponsor for disadvantaged youth. The Gary Player Foundation has to date provided over $50 million in grants to children's charities worldwide.

Phil Mickelson

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Phil Mickelson, with five majors to his name so far, is perhaps the most competitively active of those on the upper portion of this list. At 45, there is every chance that Mickleson's winnings will significantly add to his net worth which already stands at $180 million. Were he to capture the US Open he would join the select band to have achieved a career grand slam.

Freddie Couples

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Freddie Couples, like the other distinguished ambassadors for the game of golf on this list, has proved that sporting success plus popularity equates to a marketing perfect storm. There are few modern golfers who are able to bask in the public warmth that the ever-affable Couples manages to generate. The 1992 Masters winner's wealth is estimated at $105 million and is begrudged by no-one in the golfing world. Boom Boom, as he is affectionately known, is another who has followed up his professional career with ventures in golf course design.

Vijay Singh

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Vijay Singh is not just a big name in his native Fiji. A return of 57 career victories including three majors saw him firmly established as the world number one for an uninterrupted 32 weeks between 2004 and 2005. Compared with those above him in this list Singh's $75 million may seem scant reward for his success on the course, but Singh, one of the most assiduous professionals on the circuit has never been one to complain. Given his extensive involvement on the - relatively less exposed and hence less lucrative - Asian Tour Singh's career earnings are all the more astonishing.

Ernie Els

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Ernie Els ranks ninth in golf's rich list following a career that took in four majors and 63 other professional titles. The Big Easy has moved quietly into the wine-making industry and is another much sought after course designer. Eels boasts a net worth of $75 million.

Sir Nick Faldo

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Sir Nick Faldo make up golf's top ten richest exponents with a portfolio valued at $60 million. Six major victories stand in the record as testament a determinedly competitive persona. Not always universally liked, Faldo has distinguished himself as a sponsor to aspiring young golfers and an insightful media commentator.

Rory McIlroy

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We started this list with a mention of Rory McIlroy and it would be wrong not to mention him again. At the age of just 26 the - currently - former world number one is a sure bet to move up the list - just as the same is true of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. McIlroy's wealth is put at $50 million, and rising.

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