While the official results of the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program have not yet been certified – that’s what accounting firms are for – word on the street and the always reliable social media platforms is that Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods finished one-two in the first year of the algorithm-based initiative designed to determine who the sport’s true needle movers are.
Take a moment to get over your surprise.
Phil and Tiger.
One’s a 51-year-old who had a single top-15 finish in 2021 – but winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island was a doozy – while the other is a 46-year-old who didn’t hit a shot in tour competition last year and nearly lost his life in a harrowing auto accident in February.
For more than 25 years, they’ve been the alpha and omega of the PGA Tour and based on the crunched numbers, they still are.
“It’s a little bit like Jack (Nicklaus) and Arnold (Palmer). In their heyday, they were the needle,” said Andy Pazder, chief tournaments and competitions officer for the PGA Tour, who has been deeply involved in the development and implementation of the PIP.
As a new calendar year begins, so does Year Two of the Player Impact Program.
Here’s a short history of what was a $40-million program last year that will increase to $50 million this year.
The concept – to reward the most influential players on the PGA Tour based on five criteria – was approved by the tour policy board in early March 2020 and set to begin Jan. 1, 2021. The details of what it was and how it works would be revealed to players then to media and fans.
Then COVID-19 happened and getting the PGA Tour back up and running became the priority. When word began to get out about the program, the tour lost a bit of control regarding the narrative.
“The idea is good. It was framed as a social media contest which it was not, but I do think it was good in a way in that it got a lot of players doing some sort of golf content,” Max Homa said.
“Bryson (DeChambeau) has a YouTube page now. He posts a lot on Instagram. Brooks (Koepka) is doing something similar. Guys are starting to be a little more active. Phil became the most popular guy on Twitter. It helped get golf into the 21st century with the social media aspect.”
Social media is just one-fifth of what the program is.
The program rewards the 10 players who rank highest in a complicated formula based on five key metrics:
- Google searches about a particular player;
- Meltwater mentions which measure a player’s global media coverage;
- The MVP index, which tracks social media impact;
- Nielsen score which calculates how much TV time a player gets;
- Q score which determines a player’s overall recognition and popularity with the public.
Put them all together and, voila, Phil and Tiger.
The list of the top 10 players in the PIP will be sent to players next month and while the tour won’t make an official announcement, the list will get out.
First place – Mickelson essentially announced it on Twitter a while back – was worth $8 million last year, up to $10 million this year. Second was worth $6 million while third through sixth got $3.5 million per player and 7-10 was worth $3 million per man.
There are two requirements for players to get their money. The first half of the money will be distributed when the final tabulations are official. The second half requires a player to add a tournament he has not played in recent years (Mickelson played the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week for the first time in more than 20 years) and he, like the others in the top 10, must fulfill a sponsor obligation of some sort during the year.
The timing of the program’s debut coincided with the uptick in conversation about deep-pocketed rival leagues emerging around the world promising big money to top players. Whether it was a direct response or not … it is another incentive to keep the best players where they are.
Did the program achieve what it set out to do in its first year?
“I think there was strong general support across the membership for the program and recognizing whoever the top 10 end up being that they earned it, whether on the field of play or through being a needle mover for 25 or 30 years, having played in however many pro-ams and done however many sponsor interactions and carrying TV ratings,” Pazder said.
In other words, established stars did well in the rankings.
The program provoked interest during the year. Jim Herman didn’t finish in the top 10 but he demonstrated a sense of humor with his social media posts about his chances to win millions of dollars.
The Brooks Koepka-Bryson DeChambeau spat drew plenty of social media attention but, according to a source, it did not move the needle significantly for either of them.
Mickelson being Mickelson, it was perfect for him.
The timing of the program’s debut coincided with the uptick in conversation about deep-pocketed rival leagues emerging around the world promising big money to top players. Whether it was a direct response or not – top players have always wanted more of the pie going back to when the tour separated from the PGA of America in the 1960s – it is another incentive to keep the best players where they are.
“You can’t try to go out and win it,” Homa said. “Phil already had a humongous following and he added something. For the rest of us mortals, that’s not really an option.
“(The money) funnels down to all of us. They get the reward directly and we get it more indirectly. None of us are complaining about Phil and Tiger getting more money. They rightfully deserve it.”
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?