News & Opinion

PGA Tour launches $40 million popularity contest, report says

Money on the golf tee box

Player Impact Program will pay 10 players based on rankings that include web searches, social media and Q rating, Golfweek reports

The rich are going to get even richer on the PGA Tour.

According to a report by Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch, the PGA Tour has created a $40 million bonus pool to reward its 10 biggest stars based on their popularity, regardless of how well they play. Lynch cited a document outlining the plan that was distributed to players and confirmed by a PGA Tour spokesman.

The concept, Lynch noted in his report, is the PGA Tour’s response to a proposal by the upstart Premier Golf League, which has failed in its bid to recruit many of the game’s top players for a rival tour.

Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and others who “positively move the needle,” the unnamed Tour official said, are projected to benefit from the Player Impact Program, which launched Jan. 1. The player who ranks No. 1 based on the PGA Tour’s “impact score” will receive $8 million, and lesser amounts will be paid to the other nine in the rankings.

RELATED: Is PGA Tour's popularity bonus a good idea?

The ranking criteria:

1. Position on the season-ending FedEx Cup points list.

2. Popularity in Google search.

3. Nielsen brand exposure rating, which places a value on the exposure a player delivers to sponsors via the number of minutes he is featured on broadcasts.

4. Q rating, which measures the familiarity and appeal of a player’s brand.

5. MVP index rating, which calibrates the value of the engagement that a player drives across social and digital channels.

6. Meltwater mentions, or the frequency with which a player generates coverage across a range of media platforms.

The PGA Tour will use an algorithm to turn each of the six categories into an “impact score” for each player and use the rankings to determine the top 10 for the bonus pool. Only the FedEx Cup points are a direct result of on-course performance, though tournament play has an effect on the other categories.

The FedEx Cup already awards $60 million in bonus money at the season-ending Tour Championship, in which the top 30 players compete.

In the Tour’s communique with its players, 2019 figures were compiled to illustrate how the ranking will work. Tiger Woods, who won the Masters that year, provided the most value to the PGA Tour, according to the ranking. Rory McIlroy, who won that year’s FedEx Cup, was second, followed by Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. Bryson DeChambeau finished 12th that year but certainly would rank higher these days, especially with Woods sidelined with serious injuries from a car crash.

“Tiger should be No. 1 on that list, no matter what,” Koepka told Golfweek when asked about the new bonus plan. “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.”

Two journeymen players who likely won’t rank highly in the Player Impact Program referred to “complications” and a “shoo-in money grab” for the game’s stars.

“There I was thinking they were compensated enough,” said one former Tour winner who spoke with Golfweek on the condition of anonymity. “We earn our money through performance. Using metrics will definitely cause complications at some point. What if you’re a really awesome player but don’t move the needle in those metrics?”

Said another former Tour winner: “Most players feel it is a shoo-in money grab for only those at the top, and it’s extremely hard to break into that category if you’re not already in it. For example, the same people are always on TV, including the same names always on PGA Tour Live, which the Tour chooses who gets on that. Also, the top, top guys are invariably the ones with the most social-media followers, and that results in more money from this plan. The overriding thought is, why not do something to help all of the players? The FedEx Cup already takes care of the top.”

Not well enough, apparently.

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