When Tiger Woods was hospitalised after his showstopping car accident back in February, it was quite obvious he’d be out of action for some time – but thanks to the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program (PIP), his on-course earning potential might not be taking that much of a hit in 2021.
For context, the PIP is what Sports Illustrated has described as the PGA Tour’s US$40 million / AU$55.47 million counterpunch to the Premier Golf League; the latter of which was reportedly dangling hefty sums to lure AAA names away from the former. Distributing the total sum amongst 10 players who’ve earned the highest “Impact Score” throughout the calendar year, US$8 million / AU$11 million is reserved for whoever has the biggest digital footprint.
Factors considered to determine an Impact Score include the following:
- Popularity in Google searches (self explanatory)
- Nielsen Brand Exposure rating (metric of value each player delivers to sponsors via total time featured on broadcasts)
- Q-Rating (metric of player’s brand familiarity & widespread appeal)
- MVP Index rating (metric of player’s social media & digital channels engagement)
- Meltwater Mentions (metric of frequency in player mentions across several media channels)
While the official Player Impact Program rankings have yet to be revealed – nor does the PGA Tour plan to publicise the bonuses being cashed in – it doesn’t take a seasoned sports analyst to figure out Tiger Woods is on track to secure those tasty millions. Being the most prolific professional golfer in the world by a country mile, of course, comes with a 24/7 news cycle. Throw in a headline-making car accident and it’s pretty much a hole-in-one for the biggest digital footprint.
Here’s where all the major names are projected to place in 2021 according to Andy Wittry of Sports Illustrated (who apparently leveraged the power of publicly available data for this breakdown):
- Tiger Woods
“It should be no surprise that no one on the PGA Tour drives more Google search interest or media coverage, and no one eclipses his 6.5 million Twitter followers and 2.7 million Instagram followers. A PGA Tour spokesperson confirmed that Woods is still eligible for the Player Impact Program.”
- Rory McIlroy
“McIlroy is second only to Tiger in Twitter and Instagram following, and he’s third in Google News results, so the four-time major winner and two-time leading PGA Tour money-winner will likely bring home a significant chunk of change from the debut season of the Player Impact Program.”
- Jordan Spieth
“Spieth excels across social media with two million Twitter followers and 1.6 million Instagram followers, both of which rank fourth among the players examined.”
- Phil Mickelson
“The reigning PGA Championship winner and six-time major champ has shown that it’s not only millennials who have a good handle on social media. His 1.2 million Instagram followers rank fifth among the players examined and his roughly 782,000 Twitter followers were 11th. Only five players have more Google News results, as Lefty continues to drive media coverage.”
- Dustin Johnson
“The #2 player in the world has a combined Instagram and Twitter following of more than two million and he ranks second in media coverage, based on Google News results.”
- Bryson DeChambeau
“DeChambeau – the 2020 US Open champion – has stayed in the Top 10 of the OWGR for roughly a year, with only one week ranked outside of the Top 10 at #11, and right now, he’s part of the conversation — however you want to define that, in terms of social, digital, and related media interest — as much as almost any player on the PGA Tour.”
- Rickie Fowler
“As of early October, Fowler is ranked #125 in the OWGR, with his best finish in the 2020-21 season being a T8 at the PGA Championship. He missed the cut in four of his last nine tournaments and he finished in the Top 30 just twice. But Fowler is still one of golf’s biggest stars — with stars being defined by the metrics that go into his Impact Score.”
- Justin Thomas
“Golfweek reported that “it’s believed the formula used to calculate Impact Scores will distinguish between positive and negative coverage a player generates.” When Morning Read analysed the search interest in PGA Tour players using Google Trends, which measures search interest online, search interest in Thomas spiked in January, when he was caught on a hot mic saying a homophobic slur. Thomas and Fowler had the same average score in our analysis, so we gave Fowler the edge, given that not all of Thomas’ publicity was good publicity. In an email to Morning Read, a PGA Tour spokesperson said, “The Commissioner has discretion to modify a player’s impact score due to negative coverage if needed,” when asked, in general, about potential negative impacts of negative media coverage.”
- Brooks Koepka
“Koepka was the world’s #1 player this time last year and he has since dropped as far as 13th in the OWGR, but he climbed back into the Top 10 with three consecutive top-six finishes at the US Open, Travelers Championship, and Open Championship. Among the players examined, Koepka ranks between 8th and 12th in Twitter following, Instagram following, and Google News results.”
- Jon Rahm
“The world’s #1 player and the reigning US Open winner is still a relative newcomer to the PGA Tour, having turned pro in 2016, but he drives more media coverage than anyone not named Tiger, DJ, or Rory, according to Google News results, and he’s the fifth-most searched player on Google this season, based on Google Trends.”
You can read Andy Wittry’s full analysis here.