The PGA Tour gives mega-millions to its stars. Some pros hate it

Every year the PGA Tour dishes millions to its stars in bonuses called the Player Impact Program. Some pros despise it, and here’s why.

The post The PGA Tour gives mega-millions to its stars. Some pros hate it appeared first on Golf.

Every year the PGA Tour dishes millions to its stars in bonuses called the Player Impact Program. Some pros despise it, and here’s why.

The post The PGA Tour gives mega-millions to its stars. Some pros hate it appeared first on Golf.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, an annual gift arrived: the PIP standings, the PGA Tour’s yearly ranking of its most valuable players. How valuable? Very valuable — that collective of Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm and others. But how are they valuable? The Tour has its own system of answering that question. Only there’s a growing problem with that system. Numerous other pros don’t like it. 

In year’s past, the PIP rankings have been shared by the Tour itself, and sometimes even leaked through golf media. But one thing was different this year: The rankings came via Instagram. And via one Instagram account in particular. Nate Lashley’s Instagram.

Lashley is the 187th-ranked player in the world. He just finished 96th in the FedEx Cup Fall standings, which means he won’t be playing in any signature events to begin the 2024 season. He has full status, which is job security. You’ll see his name on leaderboards next year. But for the moment Lashley is upset. 

“How many golf fans actually know what the PIP on the PGA Tour is?” he wrote in his IG caption. “Would love to hear from golf/PGA fans if they think this $100 million was spent well? There’s 150-200 members of the PGA Tour and they just spent $100 million on 20 players. Seems a little ridiculous. Time for new leadership on the PGA Tour. This is an absolute kick in the face to the rest of the PGA Tour players.”

A kick in the face! That’s how Lashley feels. He wants that sum of $100 million redistributed to tournament purses, which he made clear in subsequent comments, and you can’t blame him for feeling that way. That gives him the best chance to grab a share of that money. Because Lashley is not going to finish anywhere near the top of the PIP rankings, barring a massive change in ability. And if the entire structure of the PGA Tour’s profits and losses hinged on those tournaments and their leaderboards, he might have a decent case. 

But the popularity of the PGA Tour, the ratings its TV partners receive, the people who will travel to Charlotte for the Wells Fargo and buy tickets in Los Angeles for the Genesis Invitational — these things are not necessarily tied to where players finish on the leaderboards. That is what the PGA Tour has earmarked millions of bonus dollars for. A payout for players who have the stardom to impact those aforementioned things that matter to the PGA Tour. Players who have weight in the golf world. Players who can impact the Tour’s bottom line simply by existing. That’s why it’s called the Player Impact Program. 

So, let’s get to the results! 

For the first time in its young life, the PIP’s top spot was not won by Tiger Woods. No, Woods took second behind Rory McIlroy, who won $15 million for finishing first. Woods will earn $12 million, despite making just two starts during the 2023 season. Here’s how the rest of the list shakes out. Scroll below for an explanation of the system. 

1. Rory McIlroy — $15 million
2. Tiger Woods — $12 million
3. Jon Rahm — $9 million
4. Jordan Spieth — $7.5 million
5. Scottie Scheffler — $6 million
6. Rickie Fowler — $5.5 million
7. Viktor Hovland — $5 million
8. Justin Thomas — $5 million
9. Tommy Fleetwood — $5 million
10. Max Homa — $5 million
11. Xander Schauffele — $3 million
12. Jason Day — $3 million
13. Tony Finau — $3 million
14. Collin Morikawa — $3 million
15. Matt Fitzpatrick — $3 million
16. Wyndham Clark — $2 million
17. Cameron Young — $2 million
18. Justin Rose — $2 million
19. Patrick Cantlay — $2 million
20. Brian Harman — $2 million

If Lashley woke up on Thanksgiving still upset about the PIP, he could take another look at the names of those on the list. There are a few, great examples of players who didn’t play very well in 2023, but whom clearly impacted the Tour in a positive way. Take Justin Thomas, for example, who put together the worst year of his career as a pro golfer. 

Thomas finished outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup, thereby missing out on the year-end playoffs. But his struggles and his last-ditch pursuit of the playoffs was fascinating. Even the last approach shot of his season was invigorating. Thomas flew from the Open Championship (where he made headlines) to the 3M Open (where he made headlines) to the Wyndham Championship (where he made more headlines). As a result of all that attention, in addition to what he did the rest of the year, only five players (McIlroy, Rahm, Woods, Scheffler and Spieth) ended with higher Meltwater Mentions than Thomas. Meltwater Mentions are a ranking of “earned media”, the number of unique articles that mention a player’s name. They get eyeballs on the PGA Tour’s product.

Even his worst golf creates headlines and interest in the PGA Tour. What is that worth? Absolutely something. But earned media is just one of the five categories by which the Tour determines player impact. All five are listed below, as well as the figures associated with them and the rankings for each player who finished in the top 20.

1) Internet Searches: Number of times a player’s name is searched using Google (Google Search)
2) Earned Media: Number of unique news articles that include a player’s name (Meltwater)
3) TV Sponsor Exposure: Duration (time) that a player’s sponsor logo(s) appears on screen during Saturday and Sunday PGA TOUR telecasts (Nielsen)
4) General Population Awareness: A random sample survey of the population in the United States, balanced to key census data around age, gender, region, and ethnicity (MARC)
5) Golf Fan Awareness: A survey of a cross section of the general population in the United States who have identified themselves as “Golf Fans,” defined as adults who play or watch golf (MARC).

PGA Tour player impact program results

As you can see above, Tiger Woods is the most popular golfer on the PGA Tour according to general awareness, and also Google searches. No surprise there. The player whose name was included in the most unique articles? That’s McIlroy. The player who was on TV the most on PGA Tour weekend telecasts? Scottie Scheffler, to no surprise. He was the best golfer in the world most of the year.

The Tour’s only problem in acknowledging its most impactful stars? It’s that Lashley is not alone. James Hahn has made a stink about this same issue in the past — millions in funds going to a select few instead of the membership at large. Lanto Griffin just bemoaned the difference between the Tour’s haves and have-nots a week ago in Georgia. A divide exists now more than ever before. And the PIP isn’t going anywhere. Players received a memo with the results Wednesday, but along with it they received a note on how the program would exist and change in 2024. $50 million to the top 10 players, a slight change from $100 million to the top 20. Lashley now has a full year to get comfortable with that. 

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