Sorry, Phil — Tiger might be out of the game for now, but you’re still sitting at second best.
The results of the PGA’s first ever Player Impact Program were released today, with Tiger Woods unsurprisingly in the top seat in what is essentially a golf popularity contest (more on that in a moment), and Phil Mickelson in the place he has so often found himself throughout his career — just one step behind Tiger. They’ll receive $8 million and $6 million, respectively.
Rounding out the top three is Rory McIlory, followed by Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom will receive $3.5 million from this initiative.
Mickelson has found himself unexpectedly down for the count in the public eye after a series of anti-PGA missteps over the past few weeks, and while this might not exactly be newsworthy on its own, yet another unfortunate misstep from Lefty has made it so.
In December, Mickelson sent out a tweet implying that he had already won or was about to win the PIP. He obviously did not, and Tiger responded to the original tweet today in an easy but nevertheless hilarious dunk.
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Woods has not played a single professional tournament this year, though he did play in the PNC Championship with his son Charlie. His impact on the sport is undeniable and has been discussed at such length that I’ll spare you the paragraph — though I want to note that there has been particular focus on his legacy following his life-changing injury this time last year.
So while the PGA is clearly making an effort to financially appease its stars who, led by Mickelson, have vocalized some concerns and issues with the association, it is literally giving away money to golfers for being popular, regardless of whether they’ve hit a PGA ball this year.
The PGA’s Player Impact Program is a new initiative that “recognizes and rewards players who positively move the needle” based on five metrics: (1) Internet searches for their name, (2) news articles on the player, (3) a social media score based on reach and engagement, (4) TV sponsor exposure, and (5) general awareness in the American population.
The calculations were conducted by an independent auditor, and $40 million was distributed to the 10 most popular girls in school — wait, sorry, professional golfers, without directly taking into account their level of play.
If golfers are worried they’re not being compensated enough, this seems to be an interesting response, rather than upping the amount of money in tournament purses. However, veteran golfer Kevin Na brought up a good point on Twitter today — the more popular the sport, the more money all of the athletes bring in. The PGA seems to have had the same thought — why not reward the guys bringing in the revenue with a little something extra?
It’s been controversial from the start, as it basically measures the household name-ness of pro athletes. Of course, this is largely based on the golfers’ skill over time, which gets them on leaderboards as their names become recognizable and they bring in more fans as they keep winning. But quite frankly, Tiger is going to be winning this one for the next decade unless another Tiger comes along.
And maybe that’s how it should be. As Brooks Koepka said when news of the initiative first came out, “Tiger should be No. 1 on that list no matter what. He’s the entire reason we’re able to play for so much money, the entire reason this sport is as popular as it is, and the reason most of us are playing. Not even close.”
However, ESPN reported that other pros are not quite as supportive of the PIP. Said FedEx Cup Champion Patrick Cantlay, “”I think I’m old-school in the respect that I would like the money to be doled out relative to play, and I don’t think the PIP does that. It may be the first departure that the tour has had from rewarding good play to rewarding social media or popularity presence, so I don’t like that departure.”
Money grab or deserved reward? Either way, Mickelson will have to settle for second this year.