Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus among highest-paid athletes of all time*

Research conducted by Sportico puts Tiger Woods, Palmer and Nicklaus at Nos. 2-4 on a career earnings list that adjusts for inflation

Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus at 2018 Memorial Tournament
Tiger Woods, left, talks with golf legend Jack Nicklaus during the Memorial pro-am in 2018.

Through the years, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus earned $885 million and $830 million, respectively, which is a far cry from the $1.66 billion Tiger Woods has earned. 

And, yet, Palmer and Nicklaus rank No. 3 and 4, on the Top 25 Highest-Paid Athletes of All-Time list compiled by Sportico. The list is based on inflation-adjusted career earnings. Michael Jordan ($2.62 billion) and Woods ($2.1 billion) top the list, followed by Palmer ($1,5 billion) and Nicklaus ($1.38 billion). 

Sportico’s methodology was based on research and historical estimates, and factored in a range of categories such as money earned through tournament purses, endorsements, licensing, course designs and memorabilia. 

Phil Mickelson ($885 million / $1.08 billion adjusted) at No. 11 and Greg Norman ($555 million / $815 million adjusted) at No. 15 also make the list.  

“With competitive careers that can span 30 years or more, golfers have the longest shelf life of any pro athletes,” Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Pinnacle Advertising, told Sportico. “Combine that with their global appeal across a broad and high-end fan demographic, and it’s no wonder so many rank high among the all-time earners in sports.”

Nicklaus is currently 315th on the PGA Tour career money list with $5.73 million in earnings. Palmer, according to a PGATour.com story in 2017, won $1.86 million in his career, which would place him 466th on the career money list. However, Palmer’s name is not listed on the Tour’s career money list.