'Money grab': PGA's contentious move to reward social media darlings

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·Sports Reporter
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Brooks Koepka says the PGA Tour's new 'Player Impact Program' will likely reflect the massive publicity generated for the sport by superstar Tiger Woods. Pictures: Getty Images
Brooks Koepka says the PGA Tour's new 'Player Impact Program' will likely reflect the massive publicity generated for the sport by superstar Tiger Woods. Pictures: Getty Images

The PGA's top golfers are divided over a new bonus structure introduced to reward players who generate the most interest on social media.

The 'Player Impact Program' will measure players based on a variety of metrics which will measure their performance in several areas.

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These include sponsorship exposure, brand familiarity, social media engagement, media coverage and their Google search rankings.

According to a PGA spokesman, the program commenced in January and is designed to 'recognise and reward players who positively move the needle'.

At the end of the year, the program's $40 million pot will be distributed among the top 10 highest scoring players, with the highest ranked player to earn an $8 million bonus.

The move is almost certainly a response to the proposed Saudi-backed Premier Golf League — which has tried to draw Tour players away with the promise of more guaranteed money.

Controversially, the players' standing in the FedEx Cup (the PGA Tour championship) will not be taken into account when the bonus is distributed.

Players are split on the merits of the program, with some believing it will do little but reward the big-name players who are already making the biggest impact on fans.

“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,” a player with multiple wins on Tour told Golfweek anonymously.

“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.”

Controversy over PGA Tour's 'Player Impact Program'

As explained in a document circulated to players, according to Golfweek, the PGA Tour simulated its metrics based on the 2019 season to give an example of how the new program works.

Tiger Woods, who won the Masters that season, came in first on the list. He was followed by Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

Even though he’s not playing now — Woods is still recovering from a car crash he suffered earlier this year in Southern California — Koepka has no doubt that Woods should be in the conversation for the new prize.

“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.”

Australian golfer Cameron Smith is decidedly nonplussed by the PGA Tour's 'Player Impact Program'. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Australian golfer Cameron Smith is decidedly nonplussed by the PGA Tour's 'Player Impact Program'. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

However other players, who chose to go unnamed, were less convinced about other players' ability to cut through the noise and break into the already massively competitive top 10.

“It doesn’t really matter to me,” another top 50 player anonymously told Golfweek.

“Good for the big guys, doesn’t matter to the little guys. Maybe if I win a major, I’ll have a chance.”

Aussie star Cameron Smith, currently 16th in the FedEx Cup rankings, said the program wouldn't change much for him personally.

“I think probably the main thing for us as professionals is just to keep doing our job and let the rest, the external stuff just really take care of itself,” he said.

“By no means do I feel pressure or anything, I don’t feel like I have to do anything else to try and be up there, it’s just another bonus for playing good golf, I think.”

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