ATLANTA - “I apologize for this question in advance, but I think it’s relevant considering your current scenario…”
Chris Kirk had just concluded his Wednesday morning news conference in advance of this week’s Tour Championship, during which he spoke about the pressure of leading the FedEx Cup points list entering the season finale (“I don't really think it brings that much pressure at all”) and what he’s accomplished to this point (“I'm definitely proud of what I've done this year”).
He had also answered all of the predictable questions about the prospect of winning $10 million with all of the predictable answers. No, if he cashes golf’s biggest check this week, he won’t buy a fleet of Maybachs or pick up an Apple Watch for everybody he’s ever met.
Kirk doesn’t seem in awe of the money, which sort of put me in awe of him. Unlike some of the players who have won the FedEx Cup – ahem, Tiger Woods – this would be more than just a little extra pocket change.
I wondered how he could remain so calm in the face of such a big payday. I wondered why he wasn’t already considering luxury purchases. I wondered if he even had that much money.
So I asked him.
“…um, do you have $10 million?”
To his credit, Kirk neither punched me in the face nor stared daggers through it. He just laughed. And he answered the question – well, at least to the best of his ability.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I have no idea how much I have.”
His career PGA Tour earnings total $9,419,104. Endorsement deals and other corporate sponsorships would easily push him into eight figures, but likely still leaves him short in net worth when we factor in taxes and paying people like agents and caddies.
The point remains the same: This isn’t the type of guy who will take the 10 million smackeroos in large bills and divvy ’em up between his private jet and his yacht.
“It wouldn't change much, to be honest with you,” he insisted. “I just won a million and a half a few weeks ago, and I didn't go buy anything. I'm very comfortable financially and very happy with what I have. My family's very well taken care of. I'm not a very extravagant guy. So I'll make sure I can afford my kids' college, I guess.”
Even if it isn’t life-changing, even if this winning lottery ticket doesn’t alter the way Kirk lives his life, it will be fun to watch players compete for that much money who don’t already have it in the bank.
Right behind Kirk on the points list is Billy Horschel, whose win at last week’s BMW Championship raised his career earnings to $7,895,691. He’s not exactly hurting for a little extra scratch, but he also understands the significance of what’s at stake this week.
“You can get hot and do some special things,” he said, “and have a chance to get here again and win the FedEx Cup and $10 million, which can go a long way.”
Like the guy he’s trailing by a mere nine points, Horschel isn’t dreaming of living a life of opulence, either. He isn’t thinking about some Robin Leach-narrated Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous account of his new toys.
He wants to earn the money so that he can better help the people who helped him get to this position.
“It just means that people that made sacrifices for me to be here and to be playing the game I love to death, I can take care of them a lot more,” he explained. “That's my parents. That's my brothers and some other family members and friends. I can reward them with bringing them out to tournaments and paying for vacations for them whenever they want to go. That's what it is. I'm not going to be going buying a 20,000-square-foot house or a brand new plane or anything. That's not my style.”
The FedEx Cup is often criticized as a manufactured money-grab where the rich get richer. In one fell swoop on Sunday afternoon, somebody will claim nearly the same amount that took Craig Stadler an entire career to amass. While that isn’t an unfair analysis, it takes some coin to get players’ collective attention these days – and for those currently atop the list, at least, $10 million is that number.
That might be a drop in the gold-embossed, extra-large bucket for a guy like Woods, who has cashed more than $109 million in PGA Tour earnings alone, but for the players in the pole position entering the season’s final four days, $10 million means something – which means watching them trying to win it should mean a little more to the rest of us, too.
“It obviously would be nice and it would be a pretty incredible nest egg to have to fall back on for the rest of my life,” Kirk said. “But no, it wouldn't really change me or my lifestyle at all.”