Tiger Woods still moves the needle in golf even when he barely plays.
The PGA Tour informed players on Wednesday that Woods was the winner of the new US$40 million “Player Impact Program” that rewards those who generate the most positive interest in golf measured by five metrics.
Woods won the US$8 million ($NZ11.81m) prize over Phil Mickelson, who claimed on Twitter in December that he was the winner.
The tour had said the program would be measured through the end of the year. Woods captivated golf in December when he returned from a shattered right leg in a February car accident to play the PNC Championship with his son, Charlie. They finished second..
Mickelson took to Twitter in December to “thank all the crazies (and real supporters) for helping him win the PIP.
He ended his message with words that didn’t age well: “P.S. I’ll try and find another hot controversial topic soon??”
Mickelson’s public image has been badly damaged in recent weeks for revealing in an interview with Alan Shipnuck, who is writing an unauthorized biography on him, that he was willing to support a Saudi-funded rival golf league as leverage — while acknowledging the human rights atrocities in Saudi Arabia — to get changes he wants on the PGA Tour.
In another interview, he accused the tour of “obnoxious greed.”
Mickelson is taking time away from the game and has not played since the Saudi International a month ago.
Mickelson finished second in the Player Impact Program and earned $6 million. He was followed by Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas, who each earned $3.5 million.
The rest of the top 10, who each made $3 million from the bonus program, were Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson.
The PIP program was among those influenced by the threat of a rival league that Greg Norman is trying to put together with Saudi Arabian money. Prize money and bonus programs likes the FedEx Cup already were increasing based on new media contracts that began this year.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had said in an interview with The Associated Press in January that threats from a rival league allowed the tour to consider “sacred cows, or some areas that people said you can never do that.”
The PIP program, along with the “Play 15” that pays every player $50,000 for entering the minimum 15 tournaments a year, are not based on performance.
The five metrics used for the PIP are internet searches (Google Search); unique news articles that include the player’s name (Meltwater Mentions); TV sponsor exposure (Nielsen ratings); awareness (Q-score) and social media engagement (MVP Index).
Woods rated first in Google Search, Meltwater and Q-score. He was No. 8 in the MVP Index and 43rd in the Nielsen rating.
Woods had a Sunday appearance in the CBS booth at Riviera last year for his Genesis Invitational. Two days later, he drove his SUV across a median at a high rate of speed and it tumbled down a hill on a suburban road in Los Angeles.
Woods had multiple fractures in his leg and foot, and later he revealed that doctors contemplated amputation. He was out of the public eye except for an interview with Golf Digest (with whom he has an endorsement) and wasn’t available in a public setting until the Hero World Challenge that he hosts in the Bahamas in late December.
A few weeks earlier, he posted a three-second video of him swinging that dominated golf conversations. And in the Bahamas, he was seen hitting balls on the back of the range.
DeChambeau rated first in the Nielsen rating, while Watson won the MVP Index metric.
Mickelson, who last May won the PGA Championship at age 50 to become golf’s oldest major champion, was the only player to finish in the top 10 of every category — second in Google Search, sixth in Meltwater, 10th in Nielsen, second in Q-score and fifth in MVP Index.
The PIP program goes to $50 million this year.
The player gets half of the bonus up front, and the second installment is paid when a player completes a PGA Tour service day and plays in one designated tournament agreed upon by the player and tour or an “equivalent activity.”
Woods has not played a PGA Tour event since the Masters in November 2020 and has not indicated when he would be able to play again. He rode a cart in the PNC Championship.