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For a quarter century we’ve been saying that Tiger Woods “moves the needle.” So it should be no surprise that despite playing in just one tournament in 2021 – the unofficial parent-child PNC Championship (more on that later) – it was announced Wednesday, via a memo to the TOUR membership, that Tiger Woods finished atop the inaugural Player Impact Program.
He will receive $8 million for finishing atop the standings that measured the players who generated the most positive interest in the PGA TOUR over the previous year. Woods finished ahead of runner-up Phil Mickelson ($6 million), who won last year’s PGA Championship at age 50 to become the oldest major winner in the game’s history.
The remaining players in the top 10 and the respective payouts were:
3. Rory McIlroy ($3.5 million)
4. Jordan Spieth ($3.5 million)
5. Bryson DeChambeau ($3.5 million)
6. Justin Thomas ($3.5 million)
7. Dustin Johnson ($3 million)
8. Brooks Koepka ($3 million)
9. Jon Rahm ($3 million)
10. Bubba Watson ($3 million)
The inaugural Player Impact Program, which awarded $40 million to the top 10 finishers, was measured from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021, and the final Player Impact Program Score was calculated based on year-end data. For 2022, the bonus pool will increase by $10 million, to $50 million total.
Independent auditor Grant Thornton certified the results. While many have been under the impression that the Player Impact Program is a “social media contest,” the scope of the metrics includes five criteria obtained from objective, third-party data measurement services:
Woods has long been the game’s most famous name, so it was no surprise that he would rank first in internet searches and general awareness. More surprising, perhaps, was that he wound up No. 1 in earned media after spending more than half the year almost entirely out of the spotlight. And when he did return, his impact was felt.
At the PNC Championship in December, Woods’ son, Charlie, wowed for a second consecutive year while Tiger looked on and smiled. Meanwhile, Dad’s game showed promising signs for someone who was just months removed from a horrific accident. The Woodses made 11 consecutive birdies in the final round, punctuated by Charlie’s incredible iron shots on 16 and 17, to put pressure on the eventual champions, John Daly and his son, University of Arkansas golfer John Daly II.
With Tiger returning from injury, fans tuned in to the PNC eager to see an old friend. “It’s almost immeasurable,” a senior PNC executive told golf.com, speaking of the surge in interest.
But it was very measurable: NBC Sports reported a total weekend audience of 2.3 million viewers, up 53% over 2020. A headline on golfdigest.com said it all: “Not surprisingly, the PNC Championship did massive television numbers.”
As for when Woods will tee it up again, he said at The Genesis Invitational last month that progress has been slower than he’d like, and he needs to be able to walk 72 holes first.
“I’ve come off long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning before,” he said at the Hero World Challenge.
The record is clear on that. The results of the first Player Impact Program remind us that if an alternate pathway to victory exists, the guy most likely to find it is still Tiger Woods.
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