As the Masters begins, the big money is still off the course

Tiger Woods (R) is awarded his green jacket by 2004 champion Phil Mickelson at the 2005 Masters Golf Championship.
Roberto Schmidt | AFP | Getty Images

As the Masters gets underway Thursday, so much of the talk will be about winning the famous green jacket and the $9 million purse. This year's winner will take home $1.62 million.

That's all great—but the real green is away from the rolling fairways of Augusta. For the vast majority of top players, off-course payments outstrip their Sunday winnings.

Take for example, Tiger Woods. In almost 20 years as a professional golfer, he's earned $156 million on the course, but a massive $1.2 billion away from it. That data comes from Golf Digest, which also broke down the 50 highest-paid golfers from last year. This is where the endorsement statistics are massive.

Below are last year's highest paid golfers, and you can see that most of the money is clearly coming off the course—not just for the top 5 players, but for most everybody else as well. Look at the shape of this graph; it's so tall because that's how much the endorsements outstrip actual golf tournament earnings.

It's not just the top players like Woods and Phil Mickelson who see endorsements make up a majority of their income. In fact, 31 of the top 50 golfers made most of their money off the course. Four players in the top 20 don't even play professionally anymore, and are cashing in from their success in a previous generation: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman.

The summary statistics on the top 50 players are staggering. In one year alone, their on-course earnings rose above $208 million, but off course they made $441 million. That's a total of nearly $650 million in one year. Among these top 50, the median player income was $4 million on-course and $5.2 million off.