U.S. Open foots the bills for USGA, but spreading the word is the difficult challenge


Why on earth aren’t the top male golfers playing for more money at the U.S. Open? After all, this year’s purse for the Players Championship was a record $15 million.

Because, you know, a $12.5 million purse isn’t enough to get the Forecaddie out of bed in the morning.

The USGA heard some cries from the affluent few and delivered an answer. Transparency was the order of the day at the organization’s annual meeting at Pinehurst last month. A graphic broke down the fiscal year ($211 million in revenue), with 54 percent ($114 million) coming from media rights, mostly from the gigantic Fox deal.

Another chart further detailed the U.S. Open, which drives 75 percent of the USGA’s revenue. The U.S. Open generates $70 million in profits, and the USGA says every bit of that goes back into the game, including $10 million to the U.S. Women’s Open. Every other championship on the schedule besides the U.S. Open, 13 in all, loses money.


RELATED: USGA says U.S. Open generates $165 million annually. Here’s where all the money goes


Protecting the reputation and prestige of the U.S. Open is paramount to the USGA’s bottom line. Does increased transparency help answer questions about the purse? Paint the USGA in a better light?

“I’m going to be honest,” said PGA Tour player Matthew Fitzpatrick, “I don’t think players will read it. If you walked up and down this range (at Bay Hill) and asked everyone if they’d seen what the USGA rolled out the other day, I would put money that 99 out of a hundred would say no, and I’m not trying to be awkward now, because I didn’t see it.”

Fitzpatrick, the 2013 U.S. Amateur champ, does nothing but rave about the USGA, and he makes a good point.

Transparency is fairly useless in the dark.

Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion, has a surprisingly abysmal U.S. Open record. He joked to The Man Out Front that the size of the purse doesn’t matter to him because he rarely finishes in the money.

On a more serious note though, Watson pointed to his wife, Angie, who played professional basketball in the WBNA and Europe. He’s well aware of the financial chasm that exists between men’s and women’s sports.

“I think that’s great that even though (other tournaments are) losing money, we’re able to support that and help from our side of it,” Watson said of women’s championships.

USGA CEO Mike Davis made it clear that for every extra $1 million that goes into the men’s purse, that’s money taken away from grow-the-game initiatives and amateur competitions.

Pat Perez isn’t sure about player relations with the USGA, but he doesn’t have a problem with U.S. Open profits supporting other championship events.

“What I do know is they can’t lose those tournaments,” Perez told TMOF. “Their whole thing is growing the game. If that’s what it takes to grow the game, then put it in.” Gwk

This story originally appeared in Issue 2 – 2020 edition of Golfweek magazine. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

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