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USATSI

There is a preposterous amount of money at stake at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club this week. When the PGA Tour bumped the postseason prize money up last year, it allocated $45 million of it to be distributed to the 30 players who made it to East Lake. First prize is $15 million, but everyone in the top eight gets at least $1 million and everyone in the top 20 gets over $500,000.

Like I said, a preposterous amount of money.

Golf is different from most other sports. When we talk about golf, we talk about legacies and trophies and who won the most tournaments. What we sometimes forget is how much of a meritocracy it is. How you go out each week and earn a performance-based paycheck. Finishing high on leaderboards is not the only way to make money as a pro golfer, but it’s the most wide-reaching.

One player who will not be teeing it up in the Tour Championship this weekend talked about this recently. Joel Dahmen finished No. 38 in the FedEx Cup standings last week at the BMW Championship (and took home a $177,000 bonus for his efforts). He was pretty forthright on the No Laying Up podcast.

“I 100 percent [play golf for the money],” Dahmen said. “I’ve always said if I could make this much money doing something else, I would do it. I don’t know what else I would do, but I definitely play golf for the money. 

“On Sunday evenings we always talk about much money we made that week. ‘What’d Max make, like 250 and change?’ That’s a huge deal. That’s a lot of money, and that’s awesome. Guys say they want to play for trophies. Yeah, I want to win too. You know what else comes with a win? A million-dollar check. That’s what I want. I don’t want a trophy, give me a check. It’s so much fun to compete and most of the time in golf you’re competing against yourself.”

This is how most professional golfers think. Not everybody is Dustin Johnson or Jon Rahm with a nice handful of big-money sponsorships that free them up to only think about titles. There are far more Joel Dahmens than there are Jon Rahms.

And that’s why this week is incredibly important for so many players, because of the monetary value attached to the event. Here’s a look at the official career earnings for every player in the field (this does not include past FedEx Cup bonuses as those do not count as official money).

  1. Dustin Johnson — $67.6M
  2. Rory McIlroy — $53.1M
  3. Webb Simpson — $40.4M
  4. Justin Thomas — $37.5M
  5. Kevin Na — $33.0M
  6. Patrick Reed — $31.5M
  7. Marc Leishman — $30.1M
  8. Hideki Matsuyama — $29.5M
  9. Ryan Palmer — $28.8M
  10. Billy Horschel — $24.4M
  11. Jon Rahm — $22.1M
  12. Kevin Kisner — $22.1M
  13. Tony Finau — $19.7M
  14. Bryson DeChambeau — $18.6M
  15. Xander Schauffele — $17.8M
  16. Daniel Berger — $17.7M
  17. Harris English — $15.9M
  18. Cameron Smith — $11.1M
  19. Brendon Todd — $10.1M
  20. Tyrrell Hatton — $8.3M
  21. Abraham Ancer — $7.4M
  22. Sungjae Im — $7.2M
  23. Collin Morikawa — $7.0M
  24. Mackenzie Hughes — $6.0M
  25. Joaquin Niemann — $5.6M
  26. Sebastian Munoz — $4.4M
  27. Cameron Champ — $4.0M
  28. Lanto Griffin — $3.5M
  29. Scottie Scheffler — $3.0M
  30. Viktor Hovland — $2.7M

What this means is that six players have an opportunity to triple their career earnings this weekend by taking home the Tour Championship and 10 (or a third of the field) have a chance to double up their career earnings by winning the $15 million at the end of 72 holes. Lastly, 13 players have a chance to earn more money by winning this week than they have in the rest of their careers … combined.

It won’t be easy, of course. Johnson starts at 10 under and Rahm starts at 8 under while somebody like Hovland starts at even par, but it’s certainly on the table. This is easy to forget when you think about how meaningful it is to just win a big tournament like this, but players this weekend will be playing for a lot more than a trophy. They’ll be playing for life-changing money against the best in the world.