Giant LIV contracts shake up Forbes’ list of richest athletes

Jon Rahm watches a shot during the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

Jon Rahm watches a shot during the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

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No athlete made a bigger leap in Forbes’ annual World’s Highest-Paid Athletes ranking than Jon Rahm. We’ll give you one guess why.

Rahm, the 29-year-old Spaniard, came in at No. 2 on the recently released list, with his total earnings over the past 12 months estimated at $218 million. According to Forbes, $198 million of that came from his on-course earnings/contracts, while $20 million came off the course through things such as endorsements.

To compile its ranking, Forbes tracked income from May 1, 2023, to May 1, 2024. For LIV players who received guaranteed contracts, Forbes calculated those sums via conversations with industry sources and estimated that top LIV players received half of their guarantees upfront, with remaining signing bonus money to be paid through the course of the contracts.

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo topped the list, with $260 million in earnings.

jon rahm speaks at press conference at the PGA Championship in blue shirt and red hat
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Rahm, who wasn’t on last year’s ranking, shocked the golf world when he signed with LIV Golf in December of last year. While specifics of the deal haven’t been made public, it’s been previously reported that the number was at least $300 million over multiple years. Rahm won four times on the PGA Tour from January 2023 to April 2023, which included the Masters for his second major title. He officially earned $16.5 million in prize money on the PGA Tour last season. Forbes list his sponsors for that time period as Callaway, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex and Santander Group.

Rahm has yet to win since he’s moved to LIV Golf, but he hasn’t finished worse than 10th in his seven starts. He’s finished third twice.

In his two major appearances since joining LIV, Rahm tied for 45th at the Masters and was cut at last week’s PGA Championship.

Rahm was one of five golfers on the Forbes’ top-50 list, which included Rory McIlroy (19th, $80.1 million total), Tiger Woods (23rd, $67.2 million), Scottie Scheffler (29th, $59.2 million) and Cameron Smith (43rd, $48 million).

Smith, like Rahm, left the PGA Tour for LIV. Smith won the 2022 Open Championship at St. Andrews, then signed with LIV at the end of the PGA Tour season. Smith’s signing bonus has been rumored to be nine figures.

In Forbes’ 2023 list released last year, Dustin Johnson (No. 6, $107 million) and Phil Mickelson (No. 7, $106 million) — fresh off their deals with LIV — were the only golfers ranked in the top 10. Last year was also the first time in six years Woods wasn’t ranked as the world’s highest-paid golfer.

A potential merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi PIF, which funds LIV Golf, has made little progress over the last year. Rahm missed the cut at Valhalla last week, but he did create headlines — and was heavily criticized by Golf Channel analysts — when he said he still considers himself a member of the PGA Tour.

“I’m still a PGA Tour member, whether suspended or not,” Rahm said last Tuesday. “I still want to support the PGA Tour and I think that’s an important distinction to make. I don’t feel like I’m on the other side. I’m just not playing there.”

Josh Berhow Editor

As’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at

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