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The identities of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes in the last 12 months have been revealed, with Tiger Woods coming well ahead of three other golfers on the list.
The research, carried out by Sportico (opens in new tab), found that Woods, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are the best-paid in golf. However, the 15-time Major winner is top thanks mainly to his eye-watering earnings from endorsements. The 46-year-old took a staggering $65m in endorsements from June 2021 to May 2022, with a further $8.5m in winnings, the bulk of which came from the PIP Award, which netted him $8m. In total, Woods earned $73.5m, which far outweighs the earnings of each of the other three.
The next highest-paid golfer is Rory McIlroy, whose $10.4m winnings and $28m in endorsements gave him $38.4m. Not far behind the Northern Irishman is Phil Mickelson, whose $37.1m earnings were made up of winnings of $7.1m and endorsements of $30m. Mickelson’s ability to earn big money in the later years of his career is notable - he is the oldest athlete in the 100, aged 51. Finally, Jordan Spieth earned $31.3m, helped by winnings of $9.3m and endorsements of $22m.
While these earnings are impressive by almost anyone’s standards, they are far lower than the world’s highest-paid athlete, LA Lakers basketball star LeBron James, who made an astonishing $127m. Three footballers come immediately behind James – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar earning $122m, $115m and $103m, respectively. Boxer Canelo Alvarez, a keen golfer who played this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am, completes the top five, earning $89m.
The research adds weight to the theory, espoused by the likes of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, that golfers aren’t paid well enough. Following his revelations that he’d secured an extra $2bn in funding to grow the upcoming LIV Golf Invitational Series, Norman said: “Quite honestly, the players are the lowest paid on the totem pole compared to soccer and some sports in the US, one of the lowest-paid.” Norman's view is further enhanced by the sometimes relatively meagre earnings of PGA Tour pros.
However, others have a different opinion, with McIlroy explaining in March why he thinks players are fairly paid. Overall, golf comes fifth on the list of 10 sports represented in the top 100, behind basketball, American football, football and baseball. Beneath it are boxing, tennis, F1, MMA and cricket.
Woods is 10th on the list, with McIlroy in 39th, Mickelson 44th and Spieth 85th.
Things You Didn't Know About Tiger Woods
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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