Using what we know about how the PGA Tour will distribute its $40 million Player Impact Program, this article looks at the most likely beneficiaries as we enter the new golf season. The person likely to earn the most from it is someone who may not even strike a golf ball competitively this season.
Before we get to the list of players most likely to reap the program’s rewards over the next year, let’s take a look at what we know about the program.
The PIP is the PGA’s response to the Premier Golf League, which offered vast sums of money to entice the stars of golf away from the TOUR. The PIP will distribute its $40 million pool to the top ten players at the end of the season based on an ‘Impact score,’ including $8 million to whoever they deem the top player.
The program was initially kept between the TOUR and the players until April this year when its existence was publicly revealed, exposed some might even say, by Golfweek‘s Eamon Lynch. He reported that the ‘impact score’ is based mainly on a player’s digital footprint, including their overall social media and digital impact, search volume and Q rating. The complete list, as we know it, is made up of the following:
Popularity in Google searches
Nielsen Brand Exposure rating (“rounds 3 and 4,” a PGA TOUR spokesperson wrote in an email to SI.com)
MVP Index rating, which “calibrates the value of the engagement a player drives across social and digital channels.”
Meltwater Mentions (a social media monitoring tool)
To comprise the list of ten golfers most likely to receive payments come the end of this season, we have looked at the top 50 golfers in the world, plus two notable exceptions, Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods, as both finished in the top ten for impact score in the past season.
We have measured search interest on Google trends for all golfers against Bryson DeChambeau to compile the list. Despite being injured and currently out of action indefinitely, Tiger Woods drives five times the Google searches that DeChambeau does, so comparing every other golfer to Tiger makes no sense. DeChambeau is the active player that generates the most media coverage, so he is the best benchmark to compare all other golfers.
We have looked at each player’s Instagram and Twitter following and post regularity alongside each golfer’s Google News search results to comprise the top ten players most likely to benefit in the 2021-22 season.
To be eligible for the Player Impact Program, PGA TOUR members must have played in a minimum of five approved TOUR events in at least one of the last five seasons. Hence, despite currently recovering from injuries sustained in an automobile accident, Tiger is very much still in the mix and will be for several years to come even if he doesn’t return to competitive action. I’m sure it won’t come as a massive surprise to many that Mr Woods tops the list based on what we know about PIP.
- Tiger Woods
As mentioned, no one on the PGA Tour comes close to Tiger in terms of Google search interest or media coverage, and no golfer comes close to his 2.7 million Instagram or 6.5 million Twitter followers.
- Rory McIlroy
McIlroy comes third when we look solely at Google search results but is a clear second to Tiger regarding social media following. The four-time major winner and popular Irishman will undoubtedly bring home a significant amount of money from the Player Impact Program.
- Phil Mickelson
The current PGA Champion and six-time major winner is one of the most popular players on the Tour. He has a good handle on his social media with over a million Instagram followers and close to a million Twitter followers.
Spieth has over 2 million Twitter followers and 1.6 million followers on Instagram and is regularly active on both. He is a sure-fire beneficiary of this program.
- Bryson DeChambeau
The number seven ranked golfer in the world is a darling of the media; however, you may wish to define that. He courts controversy and is just as active as any golfer is in terms of his social media.
- Dustin Johnson
The second-best player in the world has over two million followers on his combined social media platforms and ranks second behind Tiger in media coverage.
- Rickie Fowler
So far as Impact Score goes, Fowler is still one of golf’s biggest stars despite being ranked as low as number 123 in the world and his best finish last season being a tied eighth.
- Justin Thomas
Thomas and Fowler have an identical impact score in the analysis conducted, but since the PGA confirmed Impact Score is worked out based on both positive and negative coverage a player generates, Fowler edges Thomas, in our opinion.
The world’s number one player isn’t overly active on social media but is currently the fifth-most searched player on Google and drives more media coverage than any golfer not called Dustin, Rory or Tiger.
- Brooks Koepka
The former world number one dropped as low as 13th at one point last season, but has since rediscovered his form and ranks 8th-12th across Twitter and Instagram followings plus Google searches.