Westwood’s Level-Headed Perspective on Golfers’ Salaries
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Lee and caddie Billy Foster joshing around

Coming off the “best golf” he’s ever played at last week’s Thailand Golf Champiomship, world No. 2 Lee Westwood admitted he believes golfers are overpaid, especially compared to  police officers and teachers (not to mention journalists), according to The Independent’s James Corrigan.

The Englishman, who surpassed Ernie Els on Sunday as the European Tour’s career-leading money winner, also points out that compared to pros in other sports, it isn’t so bad, especially since golfers don’t get paid if they play poorly.

One of the charges he and his fellow multi-millionaire colleagues often face, however, does not concern the contents of his trophy cabinet, but instead his bank account. “We play for a staggering amount of money, no doubt about it and I’ve always stressed we are very very fortunate,” he said. “I think we are paid too much money – compared to police and teachers and nurses. But then compare it to footballers. I think the only thing you can probably justify it by is that when golfers have a bad day, we don’t get paid anything, but when we have a great day we get paid a lot. It’s part of the pressure involved. There isn’t a wage as such.”

Westwood claims not to be motivated by money and certainly not the career-earnings charts. “When you first come out on tour, you play for the money because you need a certain amount to keep your card,” he said. “But gradually as you win more, get exemptions and things like that, you get more confidence in your ability and you turn up to tournaments with the mindset of trying to win the trophy… you know the money’s just going to come along with it.”

Yet in golf it is not the worst barometer of success. For as Westwood pointed out, much depends on how much a golfer wins for what he can enter or qualify (eg Ryder Cups). Where putts for second place are sometimes worth hundreds of thousands it is too glib to say all that matters is winning. “Careers are defined by major championships. I get constantly asked about it so they must,” he said. “And I’d love to win a major; it’s the reason why I keep practising and driving myself on. But the security of my family, my kids means more to me than that. I wouldn’t sacrifice all I had for a major, no.”

Good to hear Westwood has kept his feet firmly planted on the ground and remembers he’s fortunate to be racking in millions — something that seems to be becoming less common these days and taken for granted by perhaps some of the younger players.

And I’m not surprised to hear money isn’t his main motivation. I think it’s largely a misconception by many in the general public that guys are preoccupied with how much each putt costs. Maybe afterward if it made a huge difference and was meaningful (though every shot does count), but not in the moment. Sure, money matters in the sense that it’s a straightforward way to measure a player’s success since finishing in the top-whatever on the money list ensures invitations and exemptions to tournaments and determines your status.

But as Westwood points out, a golfer’s career isn’t measured by his career earnings, but rather by majors and wins.

If you’re out there just for the money — which I think few are (obviously they want to make a living and support their family, but winning a title is priceless) — then you’re playing for the wrong reasons and chances are, you’ll never amount much to anything.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Are golfers overpaid?

(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)