Tiger Woods doesn’t need to be playing golf to be the prominent needle-mover in the golfing world. The former world number one hasn’t even come close to playing a competitive round in the last year. Still, the PGA Tour informed its players on Wednesday that Woods is the winner of the inaugural US “Player Impact Program.”
The PGA had always stated that the $40 million program would be measured through till the end of the year, and Woods and his son Charlie captivated the world of golf in December when they entered and almost won the PDC Championship, finishing second.
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PIP rewards players who generate the most positive interest in golf and is measured by five metrics. Woods beat Phil Mickelson to first place and the $8 million first prize despite Mickelson thanking all the “crazies (and real supporters)” on Twitter in December for helping him win the PIP.
Mickelson ended his December tweet with words that looking back now haven’t aged well – “P.S. I’ll try and find another hot controversial topic soon??”
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Mickelson’s public image has taken a hammering in the last few weeks following the revelations that he is willing to support the Saudi-funded rival golf league as leverage to instigate and drive the changes he wishes to see implemented on the PGA Tour. In the same interview, Mickelson acknowledged the atrocious human rights record the Saudis have.
Mickelson accused the PGA Tour of “Obnoxious greed” in a separate interview.
Mickelson is taking time away from the game altogether and has not played at all since the Saudi International over a month ago.
Mickelson’s second-place finish in the Player Impact Program behind Tigers earns him $6 million. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas, who finished third to sixth place, earned $3.5 million.
Making up the top ten and earning $3 million each were Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson.
The PIP program was directly influenced by the threat of the rival league that Greg Norman is fronting with Saudi Arabian money. New media contracts that began this year and prize money and bonus programs, including the FedEx Cup, have also been increased.
In an interview in January with The Associated Press, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan admitted that threats from a rival league allowed the tour to consider “sacred cows, or some areas that people said you can never do that.”
Neither the PIP program of the “Play 15” that pays every player $50,000 for entering a minimum of 15 PGA tournaments a year are performance-related payments.
The five metrics that make up the PIP are internet searches (Google Search), unique news articles that include the player’s name (Meltwater Mentions), T.V. sponsor exposure (Nielsen ratings), awareness (Q-score) and social media engagement (MVP Index).
Woods ranked first in Meltwater, Q-score and Google Search and was 8th and 43rd in the MVP Index and Nielson Rating, respectively.
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Woods suffered multiple fractures in his leg and foot after driving his SUV across a median at high-speed last February before it tumbled down a hill on a suburban road in Los Angeles. It was later revealed that amputation of the leg was something doctors gave serious consideration to, and he was out of the public eye altogether for the bulk of the year. Up until the Hero World Challenge in December in the Bahamas, which Tiger hosts, he wasn’t seen or heard from except for an interview with Golf Digest with whom he has an endorsement and a three-second video on his social media in early December of him swinging a club.
Watson rated first in the MVP Index metric while DeChambeau won the Nielson rating.
Mickelson was the only player to finish in the top ten of all five categories — second in Google Search, sixth in Meltwater, 10th in Nielsen, second in Q-score and fifth in MVP Index.
The PIP program increases to a $50 million fund this year.
The players get half of their bonus as a one-off initial payment, and the other half is paid to them once they complete a PGA Tour service day and play in a designated tournament agreed upon by the player and the tour.
The last time Woods played a PGA Tour event was the Masters in November 2020, and he has given no indication when he will be able to compete again. He rode a cart at the PDC Championship.