Top teacher Pete Cowen: Big money is ruining professional golf
Do you think the best golfers in the world become complacent? Losing focus on winning major championships and instead enjoying a life of leisure and the perks of a PGA Tour card?
110 golfers on the PGA Tour earned more than $1 million on course last year. That number doesn’t factor in FedEx Cup bonus money, and it certainly doesn’t include endorsements. While top players pocket millions in endorsements, even the bottom feeders of the PGA Tour bank tens of thousands from sponsors. Heck, 49 golfers on the Web.com Tour won more than $100,000 last year.
While there’s plenty of struggle to make it inside the ropes of the PGA Tour, and there’s pressure to bank enough money to remain one of the 125 fully exempt players, there’s sort of an elite complacency on golf’s top tour.
Don’t think so? Well, listen to what Pete Cowen, coach to Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, and Matthew Fitzpatrick had to say in a Bunkered Magazine editorial.
“The biggest problem in golf is money, and how lots of it spoils virtually all the players in a negative way. I see it in football, where the desire to actually be the best is gone. You’ve got to ask yourself, what do you really want? Do you want to become a very wealthy man, which you already are, or do you want to be the best?”
“There’s a difference. Thomas Pieters doesn’t even say it, but I know he wants to be the best. He’s one of the most motivated players I’ve coached, and he’s got a bit of an edge to him. He gets annoyed…There’s a fire in his eyes and I see that in Danny and Matt, too.”
In other words, unless a golfer explicitly doesn’t care about the amount of money he’s pocketing and remains focused on being the best and winning tournaments, logic suggests he’ll fall into the trap of leisurely rounds with friends for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you ever attend a PGA Tour event and follow the guys near the bottom of the leaderboard, most of their work is stress and scrutiny free. To willingly take on the stress and scrutiny required to be an elite golfer, a player’s explicit concern has to be with being the best, otherwise, what’s another few million dollars when you’re already a millionaire?
It’s not difficult to arrive at such suspicions if you’ve seen the Tour circus in action. But when a top-level coach states the same thing? Well, that lends credibility to the suspicion that plenty of golfers are merely playing for a paycheck.