When I read that Matt Kuchar had topped the PGA Tour 2010 money list with $4,910,477 in earnings, I began to wonder how that feat stacks up historically. On the surface, it doesn’t look like much compared to the $10,905,166 Vijay Singh racked up in 2004, or the $10,867,052 Tiger scored in 2007. But it certainly looks miles away from the $6,767 that Paul Runyan earned in 1934—the first year records were kept.
Of course, the problem with such historical comparisons is that over time, inflation has eroded the value of the dollar. To get a true comparison, player earnings need to be figured in current dollars. To do that, I recalcuated the earnings based on published inflation rates.
In current dollars, it turns out that Paul Runyan’s $6,767 in 1934 would be worth $110,911.13—not close to Matt Kuchar’s $4 million, but surely a pretty good living. Tops among the early players, Byron Nelson’s 1945 campaign netted him an inflation-adjusted $746,727.43. No wonder he was able to buy a ranch on his winnings. Jack Nicklaus in 1967 was the first to top $1 million in inflation adjusted dollars.
Kuchar’s $4 million thus is a pretty paltry sum. Sing’s $10 million in 2004 would be worth $12 million today. Kuchar earned a third of that. It is, however, roughly twice what Nick Price earned in 1994—the year before the so-called “Tiger Effect” took hold.
The entire chart is below: