Money or majors: what matters most?

2013 09 Stensonblog
Last night, Henrik Stenson won $11.44m, after landing the Tour Championship and, with it, the FedExCup. In his entire PGA Tour career, Arnold Palmer won just $1.8m, whilst Jack Nicklaus earned only $5.7m.

Of course, times have changed since they were both in their pomp. The value of a dollar now is different to what it was then and sponsors are more prepared than they once were to stump up serious amounts of cash to put their names to golf's leading events.

But here's a question: whose career would you rather have: Palmer's or Stenson's?

Or, to put it another way, would you rather win multiple majors and create an enduring, tangible legacy, or would you prefer to have more money in the bank than you can possibly know how to spend?

It's not a trick question. Just answer it honestly. I'm not going to lie, I'm caught (sadly) somewhere between the two. To have done achieved everything in the game that Palmer has is something that everyone no doubt dreams of. But, by the same token, who doesn't want to be filthy rich?

The concern is that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, money overtakes majors as the superseding motivation for those who play the game at the highest level.
Let's just hope that Stenson's success over the weekend doesn't become more aspirational for future generations than winning the game's four most prestigious titles

It is a legitimate concern that young players will turn pro and measure their success by the amount of dollars they bank rather than Green Jackets, Claret Jugs and the like that they win. And that's not a good thing.

It's stating the obvious to say that the amount of money up for grabs in professional golf - and sport in general - these days is exorbitant bordering on the obscene.

Just look at Stenson. People will say he won the FedExCup's $10m bonus pool for his work over the course of the season but that's rubbish. His year didn't really ignite until the Scottish Open where he finished tied for third. Since then, he's had a sensational couple of months. But that's just the point - it has only been a couple of months and, boom, he's golf's latest $10m man.

In fairness, that's perhaps a flaw more to do with the way the FedExCup operates but, even so, what sort of message does that send to young, would-be tour pros? Peak at the right times and you'll never have to work a day again in your life? That's a really disturbing message.

Look, fair play to Stenson. He has been in a rich vein of form - literally and figuratively - over the past couple of months and, by all accounts, is a nice chap.

But let's just hope that his success over the weekend doesn't become more aspirational for future generations than winning the game's four most prestigious titles, titles whose prestige has been built over several decades rather than pinned to them along with a blank cheque. Banking $10m for a so-called season's work should be thought of in the same terms as the pool it is taken from - a 'bonus'. Nothing more, nothing less.

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