The PGA Tour put in place this year a $40 million bonus plan that will pay the top 10 players based on how much they “move the needle” rather than their performance on the course.
The idea is to reward players who drive engagement with sponsors and fans. It had been studied in the wake of an effort by a rival entity known as the Premier Golf League that over the past several years has attempted to lure players to a new circuit that would set up a worldwide schedule with guaranteed payments.
Known as the Player Impact Program, the plan was first reported by Golfweek. The PGA Tour confirmed several of the details to ESPN, including the $40 million bonus pool that will pay $8 million to the player in the No. 1 position, with amounts decreasing down to the 10th spot. The rankings will be determined by several factors that gauge impact.
The Tour has been working on the program for some time and was set to announce portions of it at the 2020 Players Championship, which was ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. It put the plan in place over the ensuing months without fanfare.
As part of the program, the Tour has created a new business unit called the Players Partnerships within the Players Relations Department. It is focused on all PGA Tour players and trying to help them maximize off-the-course business opportunities.
“In pro golf, there is a dynamic that exists in no other sport or business,” said one player agent who did not want to be identified. “The needle-movers, the guy who are responsible for revenue, go out and compete at the risk of not being compensated. Tom Cruise doesn’t shoot a movie for free and see how it goes. The CEO at IMB could have performance and stock-equity bonuses. But no one goes to work in a demand position and have no guaranteed compensation.
“Tiger Woods could play in golf tournaments, sell a million dollars worth of tickets, be responsible for a large part of a television contract. And he still has to shoot scores to get paid.”
Woods is not playing due to a serious car accident on Feb. 23, but his impact could still be enough for him to reap some of the rewards.
The $40 million is being funded through the PGA Tour and is not tied to any corporate sponsorship.
The Tour said those who receive the funds will be determined based on their “Impact Score,” which will be generated from several different metrics, including their popularity in a Google search, the Nielsen Brand Exposure rating, their Q rating, the MVP index rating and their Meltwater Mentions, which measures the frequency that a player generates coverage across various media platforms.
According to Golfweek, simulated impact scores from 2019 were produced to give an idea of how the standings would have looked. From that year, Woods — who won the Masters — would have been No. 1, followed by FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Mickelson, Fowler, Spieth, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.
“Tiger should be No. 1 on that list no matter what,” Koepka told Golfweek. “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.”