BOB WEST ON GOLF: Jack Nicklaus’ career earnings dwarfed in one week

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, September 9, 2020

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Jack Nicklaus, arguably, was the greatest golfer of all time, but you couldn’t tell it by the PGA Tour’s all-time official money list. Nicklaus, with 18 major championships and 73 overall victories, ranks 298th overall with a “mere” $5.7 million in tournament earnings.

Dustin Johnson, by contrast, picked up a cool $15 million by winning the PGA Tour Championship on Monday. That boosted his haul for the past four tournaments to $18.7 million and elevated him to third on the all-time money list at $82.6 million.

Only Tiger Woods ($120.7 million) and Phil Mickelson ($92.1 million) have banked more.

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It’s a different time, for sure, than when Nicklaus was battling the likes of Tom Watson, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer for golf supremacy. Still, the difference in money to be won, thanks to Tiger and to inflation, is absolutely stunning.

Consider that Palmer, who turned so many on to golf in the 1960s and early ’70s, won only $1.9 million. That ties him for 457th on the money list with Lamar ex Trevor Dodds. Player is 465th with $1.8 million in career money.

It is like that to some extent in professional sports, with mega contracts being handed out on a regular basis. Houston Texans QB DeShaun Watson is the latest, after signing a four-year extension for $156 million. Counting his $27 million signing bonus, Watson’s contract will average a whopping $39 million starting in 2022.

Since this is a golf column, however, we’ll stick to how the dollars keep going up, up, up and how that has played out for professional golfers from Southeast Texas.

Bruce Lietzke took more money out of golf — $13.9 million — that any player to come from this area. Lietzke’s total, however, includes $7.4 million in earnings on the PGA Tour Champions where he won seven times. Thirteen PGA Tour victories helped him net “only” $6.5 million, which leaves him No. 272 on the all-time money list.

Chris Stroud, then, is No. 1 on the Southeast Texas PGA Tour only money list with $12.8 million. Though he has managed to win just one time, Stroud has mustered enough high finishes during his 14-year career to rank 148th in career money.

Moving up fast is Andrew Landry. Landry, with two victories in four full PGA Tour seasons, is No. 309 with $5.4 million in winnings. That leaves him behind Lamar ex Shawn Stefani, who is No. 279 at $6.3 million.

Another trio of Lamar exes — Ronnie Black, No. 395 at $3.1 million, Dodds, No. 487 at $1.9 million, and Kelly Gibson, No. 470 at $1.8 million — are also in the top 500.

Former Port Arthuran Marty Fleckman, who won his first ever PGA tourney, wound up at No. 620 with a bottom line of $162,141.

Golfers, in discussing a certain hole was played, are fond of saying, “it’s not how you drive but how you arrive.” In the big picture, it’s also when you arrive. Right, Jack?