8 golfers made this list of the 50 highest-paid athletes of all time

top-earning golfers

Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer comprise three of the top-four highest-earning athletes of all time.

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When it comes to making money in professional golf, there’s only one GOAT: Tiger Woods has reigned supreme for decades.

Despite his many injuries and time away from competition, Woods is easily the most influential and wealthiest golfer of his generation, with estimated earnings of $1.7 billion.

But golf fans might be surprised to discover that Woods has some company. In a ranking of the 50 top-earning athletes of all time, Sportico, a sports industry news site, identified a whopping eight golfers who made the list.

Perhaps even more impressively, golfers comprised three of the top four earners and four of the top 10 — and this is a list of sports legends, including names like David Beckham, Alex Rodriguez, Tom Brady and Serena Williams.

Sportico produced its ranking by compiling estimates based on information gathered from industry insiders and media-outlet reporting. The earnings include gross salaries, bonuses, prize money, purses, endorsements, licensing, royalties, memorabilia, book deals, media, appearances and golf course design fees.

Equity stakes in sponsor companies were also included, Sportico said, but traditional investment income was not. For deceased athletes like Palmer and Kobe Bryant, earnings were calculated until the time of death.

Here are the golfers who ranked among Sportico’s top 50, with their ranks on the list following their names:

Tiger Woods (2)

As described above, it’s hard to touch Woods in terms of money earned both on and off the course. He’s No. 2 on Sportico’s list, behind only Michael Jordan, who tops the list at $2.37 billion in earnings, which equates to $3.3 billion when adjusted for inflation. (Woods’ inflation-adjusted earnings total $2.5 billion).

Arnold Palmer (3)

Even after his playing days were over, The King’s legacy lived on in many diverse revenue streams, including endorsements and licensing fees, which Sportico estimates brought in $40 million per year until Palmer’s death in 2016.

Jack Nicklaus (4)

He’s golden, all right, with $1.63 million in inflation-adjusted earnings. Nicklaus Companies businesses include golf-course design, the development of golf and real estate communities and the marketing and licensing of lifestyle products worldwide under the Jack Nicklaus and Golden Bear brands. (Nicklaus Companies and GOLF.com are affiliates of 8AM Golf.)

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Phil Mickelson (10)

The next golfer on the list is Mickelson, who comes in at No. 10 ($1.36 billion in inflation-adjusted earnings) behind a handful of iconic athletes in other sports: Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Floyd Mayweather and Roger Federer.

Greg Norman (15)

With $1 billion in inflation-adjusted earnings, Norman ranks No. 15 on Sportico’s list. Like Nicklaus, Norman’s off-course pursuits include a dozen other companies, including apparel and course design. He also recently took on a high-profile gig as CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf.

Ernie Els (31)

Coming in at No. 31 is Ernie Els, with $625 million in inflation-adjusted earnings. Els has a diverse portfolio of endorsements and businesses, including course design and even dog treats.

Gary Player (35)

South African legend Gary Player appears at No. 35, with $610 million in inflation-adjusted earnings. Like his contemporaries Nicklaus and Palmer, Player is a prolific golf-course architect and an author or co-author of 36 books on golf and fitness.

Rory McIlroy (43)

McIlroy is among the youngest athletes on Sportico’s list, with career earnings beginning in 2007. Sportico lists McIlroy at No. 43 with $545 million in inflation-adjusted earnings, ahead of the likes of Dwayne Wade, Drew Brees and Chris Paul.

For more information, and to view Sportico’s entire list, click here.

Golf.com Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.