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Multi million McIlroy tops golf money list

By Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy is battling to be world number one again, but in the meantime he has reached the top in another elite list - the Golf Digest magazine's 50 'Highest Paid Golfers 2017' with a total of almost $50,000,000.

Yes, the Holywood-born star has outperformed the biggest earners in the game to claim the number one slot in the prestigious magazine's annual survey of on and off course earnings.

McIlroy was fourth in the 2016 rankings, but helped no doubt by his $10m bonus for winning the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, he tops the poll with total earnings of a whopping $49,514,505 (£39,937,494).

That's made up of tournament earnings of $17,514,505 (£14,121,184) and off course an estimated $32m (£25.8m).

Not bad for a lad who left school early to focus on his ambition to win major championships and compete against the best golfers in the world.

It helps, of course, to have shown a precocious talent for golf from an early age, and to have that gift sup­ported by devoted parents.

He is also fortunate to be playing in an era when television money and sponsorships offer unprecedented earning potential from golf.

Tiger Woods' arrival on the scene in 1996 inspired new levels of invest­ment in the game by corporate and media entities.

Woods dominated the Golf Digest 'Highest Paid' rankings for the first 12 years, staying at number one until last year when Jordan Spieth took over.

Now it's McIlroy number one, with the late, great Arnold Palmer, who died last September, in second with $40m.

Phil Mickelson is third on $37,767,628.

Woods slots in at fourth place on $34,607,000 while Spieth is fifth with $30,403,470.

Portrush native Graeme McDowell and Dubliner Padraig Harrington are in the top 50.

McDowell moves from 39 last year to 23rd on $8,811,008, of which just over $3m was on course.

Harrington, winner of the Portugal Masters last October, slipped one place from 49th last year to 50th this time round with $5,269,786. His playing earnings were $1,269,786.

Only one woman - New Zealand 19-year-old Lydia Ko - made the list.

Ko is in 44th place on $5,941,642. Just over half of her income came on the LPGA Tour.

The magazine compiled the figures "through interviews with agents, players, executives of companies involved with endorsements, indus­try analysts and through the official money lists of the professional tours".

It's important to note that not every penny goes into the golfer's bank account. A Tour player at top level is a self-employed businessman who needs a team around him so he can concentrate on doing the business inside the ropes.

Managers, coaches, physical ther­apists, trainers, sports psychologists and caddies are all on the payroll. And don't forget the taxman who is always hovering in the background awaiting his slice of the action.

Tour fees also have to be paid and then there are contributions to chari­table Foundations, either of money, or the golfer's most precious asset - his or her time.

It would be quite easy for the top professionals to lose sight of their blessings, but most of the main men have set up charitable Foundations through which they help the less well off in society.

McIlroy donated all of his winnings in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and also conducted a major fundraiser, "An evening with Rory McIlroy", on the Tuesday of Irish Open week.

The outcome was over €900,000 divided between three charities for specific projects.

Last week during the SA Open, the four time major champion spoke of the motivation he receives from using his talents for the wider good where possible.

"To be able to help people that are really in need - that's huge for me," he said. "We're in a fortunate position where we can give back and we can really help people. It's a very privileged position to be in. I take that role very seriously."

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