Webb Simpson must be a throwback.
That’s what the pioneers who helped build the PGA Tour suspect after hearing how determined he is to win the money title.
“The money title used to be a really big deal,” says Bob Goalby, the Masters champion in 1968. “It was an important stripe in your rank, so to speak. It was almost right there with a major championship when a player’s accomplishments were read off.”
The fact that there wasn’t a whole lot of money to win back when Goalby got his start in 1956 made the money title that much more meaningful. Goalby made $20 tying for 30th with four other players in his rookie debut in Sanford, Fla.
“Back then, we had 1,500 players trying to Monday qualify for the Los Angeles Open, into a field of 150 players, with only the top 30 spots getting paid,” Goalby said. “We were driving three to a car from tournament to tournament. We bunked together to share the cost of a $10.95 hotel room.”
With Tiger Woods running away with so many money titles, with the FedEx Cup’s development and the growing importance of the world rankings, the money title has lost some of its luster as an award.
Not to Simpson, though. He wants the Arnold Palmer Trophy and five-year exemption that goes with the money title.
“It would be a pretty prestigious list to be a part of,” Simpson said.
Simpson’s fast start Thursday at the McGladrey Classic sharpens focus on the tightest money battle in two decades. Simpson is teeing it up this week in a bid to overtake Luke Donald atop the money list.
Trailing Donald by $68,971, Simpson needs a finish of 15th or better to have a chance to overtake him. It gets complicated. While a two-way tie for 15th will do it for Simpson, an eight-way tie for 14th won’t, but you get the ballpark idea.
With an opening 63 at Sea Island, Ga., Simpson is aiming for his third victory in six starts. How the money title potentially factors in PGA Tour Player of the Year voting is adding to the emphasis on the money title. So is the fact that the money race is so tightly contested that we could see somebody seize the money title in the season-ending event for the first time since 1996. That was the year Tom Lehman won The Tour Championship to overtake Phil Mickelson as the money leader.
It’s possible Simpson and Donald will square off together at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World next week. Donald wants to become the first player to win the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles in the same season and is considering playing Disney.
Donald leads the PGA Tour with $5,837,214 in earnings.
For players from Goalby’s era, the money makes it such a different game today.
“When we get the former champs together, we don’t bitch about all the money players are making now,” Goalby said. “We’re happy for them, but if they only knew the way it used to be . . . .”
Arnold Palmer totaled $1.8 million in official PGA Tour career money winnings.
Tiger Woods has made more than $94 million.
“It’s mind-boggling to think you can make that much money hitting a golf ball,” said Doug Ford, who won 19 times between 1951-63 but never won more than $46,000 in a season. “The caddies today make more money in a month than we did in a year.”
PGA Tour pros are playing for more than $280 million in prize money this season.
Ninety PGA Tour pros made $1 million or more in prize money last year.
Curtis Strange was the first player to make $1 million or more in a single season back in 1988.
Bob Toski won the PGA Tour money title in 1954, but he didn’t get a lucrative start. As a young player, he felt fortunate he got to travel in Ted Kroll’s luxurious Studebaker in a player caravan between events. This, however, was only after Kroll came through with his back to the wall.
Nearly broke, Kroll told his friends before one tournament that he was either going to win and buy a new car, or he was going to take the next year off. Toski was his biggest cheerleader. Toski put the car together with each birdie Kroll made. “You've got the hood,” Toski said after one birdie. “You've got the fenders,” after another.
Kroll won that week, and he bought a Studebaker.
“I traveled in the back seat, behind the clothes rack, and you couldn't even see me,” said Toski, who was 5 feet 7 and 118 pounds in his prime. “We stayed three to a hotel room, and I got to sleep on a cot. With the snoring, the farting and the belching, you did your best [to sleep]. And Ted used to grind his teeth in his sleep.
“You hope the young players appreciate what was done before them, the things that allow them to get paid just for wearing a cap. If they do, they aren’t spoiled. If they don’t . . .”