The minute Jim Furyk's golf ball rolled into the 18th hole to complete his win at the 2003 U.S. Open, Furyk's wealth began to grow. The $1.08 million purse for winning his first major championship was just the beginning. Hershey's quickly concluded a multiyear, $2 million-plus deal to put its Reese's candy bar logo on Furyk's sleeve and the back of his shirt. Mortgage giant Argent signed Furyk to a $1.5 million contract to appear in its commercials and at company events. Exelon energy company doubled his endorsement fee to $1 million. And Furyk collected a $500,000 bonus from Callaway Golf Co., which pays him to use its equipment, according to golf sources familiar with the deal.
"All of a sudden, everything doubled and nobody batted an eye because they were getting a major champion," said Andrew Witlieb, an agent with New York-based Goal Marketing. "Winning the U.S. Open increased his earnings potential by $10 million to $15 million over the next five years."
While most athletes in the four major professional team leagues are guaranteed millions of dollars in salary each year, golfers cannot rely on tournament winnings alone to earn that kind of money. The big payoff for golf pros is winning one of the four major tournaments -- the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open, which begins tomorrow in St. Andrews, Scotland. Agents say a major victory can lift a golfer's endorsement earnings to as much as twice what he makes in prize money on the tour.
"The payday in endorsement deals that come from winning a major are the golden eggs of golf," said Mike Shapiro, a sports consultant who once managed Tiger Woods's relationship with Nike. "Because the golf audience is the most desirable demographic appeal of any sport, the top stars can command higher endorsement deals. The endorsements are more important than in any other sports because they can last a lifetime."
Furyk, winner of the Western Open 10 days ago, is ranked eighth in the world and fifth on the PGA tour's money list this year, but his U.S. Open victory at Olympia Fields Country Club south of Chicago remains his only major title. After winning the Open, his appearance fees for tournaments in Asia and Europe jumped to $600,000 the next day, about twice what he could command before he won the Open, according to people familiar with the offers. His daily price to play with corporate executives doubled to nearly $100,000, according to industry experts.
"It's a lifelong business opportunity," said Jim Lehman, senior vice president of SFX Sports, which represents several professional golfers, including John Daly, Greg Norman and Lehman's brother, Tom, all of whom have won the British Open.
Larry Mize, a surprise winner of the 1987 Masters with a 140-foot chip shot in a sudden-death playoff against Norman, captured the public imagination with a memorable victory dance. Nearly 20 years later, corporations such as golf equipment maker Titlelist and Straight Down apparel company still pay to associate themselves with Mize, who is ranked 515th in the world and whose best finish this year is a tie for 20th at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
"Major winners are instant superstars and that never goes away," said Mike Rowley, founder and owner of Straight Down, which signed Mize to a six-figure contract to wear the company's apparel about five years ago.
Unlike most other sports, where a player's display of brands is strictly regulated, golfers are independent contractors and for the most part can display the brands of their sponsors on their clothes and equipment. The prices companies such as Callaway, Ford Motor and Nike pay for those endorsements depend on how often the player wins, which tournaments he wins, as well as intangibles such as his personality and public image.
Shaun Micheel was offered several hundred thousand dollars to play in the Thai Open after winning the 2003 PGA Championship, according to people close to the offer. David Toms nailed down a lucrative endorsement deal with apparel-maker Tommy Hilfiger after he won the PGA in 2001. Toms's corporate outings tripled and quadrupled, hitting $100,000 or more per day, according to people familiar with his prices. Toms now has 13 active endorsements, from health services giant Humana to Sharpie markers to a belt company and a flight services firm, according to Dave Parker of Links Sports, who is Toms's agent.
"Winning a major makes it easier," Parker said.
This year's U.S. Open winner, Michael Campbell, who uses Callaway equipment, should be able to command up to $1.5 million to re-sign for the same deal next year because he won the Open, according to people in the golf business world. That is several times Campbell's base payment for using Callaway this year, although he is getting a several hundred thousand dollar bonus from Callaway for winning the Open. And that $1.5 million doesn't include the $500,000 or so that Campbell can earn from putting another company logo on his golf hat.
But whether Campbell is able to turn the Open victory into bigger outside earnings over the long term will depend on many factors that have little to do with how he fares on the golf course.
"The title can be worth several million depending on how he plays it," said Bob Williams of Burns Sports Celebrity Service, a Chicago-based firm that matches athletes with corporations for sponsorships and marketing. "It's very hard to get into specific numbers because every guy is different. Campbell doesn't have the same charisma John Daly does."
With his affability and shock of blond hair, Daly went from being a nobody to being one of the hottest endorsers in golf when he won the PGA Championship in 1991. With two major titles (he won the British in 1995), Daly has earned endorsements despite money and alcohol problems.
"We want a player who is personable as well as accomplished," said Bill Stephens, an executive vice president at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc., which pays golf stars and other celebrities to help host clients at its FBR Open hospitality tent in Phoenix. "Having won a major is a terrific achievement, but the ability to tell a great story is just as important as the ability to sink a great putt at Augusta."