The biggest first-place payouts in professional golf have long come in major tournaments or events just shy of major status, and they typically came from events that also had the biggest purses and the largest payouts in the sport.
However, with changes made in 2019 to the structure of the final three events of the European Tour schedule, the biggest first-place paydays in golf are now in non-major, non-World Golf Championships events.
The biggest single first-place payout in a tournament is now $3 million, which goes to the winner of the 50-player, season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November. The winner gets $3 million from an $8 million total purse, with the remaining 49 players competing for the $5 million remaining as though it were its own tournament.
The second-highest single first-place payout in a tournament is $2.5 million, which goes to the winner of the 60-player Nedbank Golf Challenge, played prior to the DP World Tour Championship. The winner receives $2.5 million from a $7.5 million total purse, with the remaining 59 players competing for the $5 million remaining as though it were its own tournament.
The Players Championship has the biggest purse in golf as of 2019, with the PGA Tour announcing an increase to $12.5 million. It has the biggest single first-place payout for a PGA Tour event, with the winner getting a record $2.25 million.
Before then, the U.S. Open has the biggest purse in golf, when in 2017 the United States Golf Association increased the purse to $12 million, with the winner getting a record $2.16 million. That remains the stated purse for the USGA's biggest championship.
After that comes the $2 million first-place payout to the winner of the Turkish Airlines Open, the first of the final three events on the European Tour schedule. The $2 million is paid from a $7 million total purse, with the remaining 69 players competing for the $5 million remaining as though it were its own tournament.
The Masters Tournament has the second-largest purse in golf, increasing its purse in 2017 from $10 million to $11 million, with $1.98 million going to the green jacket winner.
The PGA Championship purse is now $11 million, as well. However, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour have tied the purses of the PGA Championship and The Players together in recent years.
The British Open purse was $10.5 million in 2018, and the price was quoted in US dollars so the prize fund would not be subject to fluctuation in the value of the British pound as the United Kingdom goes through the implications of the 2016 Brexit vote.
Of course, the biggest single payday in golf is now technically to the winner of the revised Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta in August. With the PGA Tour changing how the Tour Championship is decided -- and that the winner of the now-handicapped event wins the FedEx Cup outright -- the winner of the event will win $15 million with a single tournament victory.