The results are in and as everyone suspected, a guy who didn’t hit a shot in a PGA Tour event in 2021 finished first in the inaugural Player Impact Program, winning $8 million.
Tiger Woods, sitting on his couch in Jupiter, Fla., generated more interest in the PGA Tour than any player last year, which could be ironic, but when you realize it’s the GOAT, nothing is a surprise.
Using five criteria from objective, third-party data measurement services — internet searches, earned media, social media, TV sponsor exposure and awareness — the data determined the top 10 and doled out $40 million to a group that clearly doesn’t need it.
It seems only right that Woods was No. 1, since there are very few things Woods hasn’t accomplished in golf. But getting a big check while not hitting a shot goes against the “play better” mantra that is always used when a player complains about his bank account. Yet, like Michael Jordan in basketball, Derek Jeter in baseball or Tom Brady in football, people are still interested even when they’re not playing.
It’s odd that Phil Mickelson, who finished second to Woods, had proclaimed victory in a tweet on Dec. 29, where he wrote “I’d like to thank all the crazies (and real supporters too) for… Helping me win the PiP!!” Of course, with most things Mickelson, we learned that he was either misinformed or spoke too soon.
Woods likely left Mickelson in his PIP wake when he got off his sofa to play with his son Charlie at the PNC Championship, a hit-and-giggle event that had a weekend audience of 2.3 million viewers, a 53 percent increase over the 2020 broadcast.
Finishing second handed Mickelson $6 million and his rank was attributed mostly to Google searches and his Q-Score (the recognized industry standard for measuring consumer appeal of performers, brand ambassadors, influencers, characters, licensed properties, and brands).
Mickelson’s brand appeal was unquestionable as major corporations KPMG, Workday, Amstel Light and Callaway were all sponsors of Mickelson’s in 2021. These are also the same sponsors that dropped or paused Mickelson’s sponsorships in February after his controversial comments provided to a journalist in November 2021 and reported last month.
So, the likelihood Mickelson will be among those feeding at a $50 million trough this year is unlikely.
Others in the list make sense, with in order from third through sixth — Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas. Dustin Johnson in seventh place is a puzzle, ahead of both four-time major winner Brooks Koepka and U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm.
Johnson’s only win last year was halfway around the world in Saudi Arabia. His Nielsen scores were the third worst behind Woods and Bubba Watson, who finished 10th, which makes sense because Johnson didn’t win in the 2021 calendar year on the PGA Tour, the first time he has gone without at least one victory in a year since 2007.
Yet, Johnson somehow outpaced two players — Koepka (eighth), who won the WM Phoenix Open and earned over $5.2 million, and Rahm (ninth), a major winner who recorded 15 top 10’s and earned over $7.7 million.
Also, on Rahm’s side of the ledger, he also jumped to the top of the world rankings after his U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines last June and has stayed in the top spot for over eight months.
In the end the system the PGA Tour got it mostly right, but it needs some tweaks.
Among those they system seemed to fail were Hideki Matsuyama and Colin Morikawa, whichm in the case of Morikawa, makes no sense since he was a contender for Player of the Year. Patrick Cantlay won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup trophy and was voted the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Xander Schauffele won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
According to the Tour, the Nielsen ratings only cover full linear broadcast feeds in North America and the Google search only covers domestic search, so, players from outside the U.S. are at an extreme disadvantage over domestic players.
That was clear from the fact that just two players McIlroy and Rahm, were born outside of the United States and made the top 10.
If you look at the final FedEx Points list for 2021, Rahm, Viktor Hovland of Norway and Abraham Ancer of Mexico were in the top 10, with Australia’s Cameron Smith, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, McIlroy, and Sergio Garcia of Spain in the top 15.
The PGA Tour has an international membership, and the Tour’s policies and procedures should reflect that. Clearly, the current PIP does not and should work to put everyone on a level playing field.