As the curtain came down on The 2011 European Tour season last week, Lee Westwood moved to the top of the Tour’s career earnings list having won a staggering €26,346,678 since turning professional in 1993.
Westwood, who has won 21 European Tour events in a dazzling career, overtook South African Ernie Els as The European Tour’s highest earner following the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World on Sunday. Els has won €26,222,911, with Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie the Tour’s third richest man with €24,360,237.
Westwood is the first to admit how fortunate he and the rest of golf’s elite players are to earn the vast sums of money that they compete for week-in, week-out.
“I think golf's been very lucky that prize money has not dropped significantly in the current economic climate. We've lost a few tournaments but I think we have been quite fortunate to hang on to the ones we have got. You look at tournament’s like the Dubai World Championship and the Bonus Pool on offer and realise we are lucky to be playing for that.
“But I think if you asked the two lads at the top of the rankings last week with a chance to win, they are not thinking about the bonus. They are thinking more about winning the actual Order of Merit, the title, rather than the cash.
“Now, we can say that because we are all in a fortunate position, the guys that are up there, because we earn a lot of money and we can afford to think that way. But when you look at it, it's an amazing amount of money for doing what you enjoy.
“I think part of the reason why the money has not dropped is because of the success of The European Tour. We won The Ryder Cup just over a year ago and our Members have been winning a lot of Majors over the past two seasons.
“I don't want to say we give value for money because we are playing for a lot of money, but The European Tour is certainly a good brand and a good product at the moment.”
The top of the career money list features some of the game’s very best and established names that contribute so much to the unique brand that is The European Tour, with Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Thomas Björn making up the remainder of the top ten.
A glance further down the list reveals that golf’s next generation are moving fast though, with 22 year old Rory McIlroy (in 25th place) smashing the €10,000,000 mark after just four years in the paid ranks.
Other notable names on the current career money list include World Number One Luke Donald in 16th place on €13,137,835, while the man one step ahead of him – Martin Kaymer – has generated €13,363,577 since 2007.
With prize funds increasing and tournaments becoming richer as the game evolves around the globe, the new generation will keep rising up the list at pace.
But they still have a long way to go to catch Westwood, who remains one of the very best in the business and, given his continued success, a man who looks very unlikely to stop winning any time soon.