Report: PGA Tour has created $40 million bonus system for most popular players

Phil Mickelson Rickie Fowler

Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler pose with fans during a PGA Tour event.

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The PGA tour has reportedly created another major revenue stream for its most popular players, enacting annual bonuses for players who drum up interest from fans and sponsors.

This comes from a Golfweek report by Eamon Lynch, which details the “Player Impact Program,” as it’s called, and the $40 million that will be doled out at season’s end. According to the report, 10 players will earn bonuses based off their “Impact Score,” an amalgam of metrics based largely on popularity. The system has been in place since January 1 and the highest ranking player at the end of the season will earn $8 million.

The six factors that will determine Impact Score are below: 

1. FedEx Cup year-end rank

2. Google Search popularity

3. Nielsen Brand Exposure 

4. Q-rating

5. MVP Index

6. Meltwater mentions

For a detailed break-down of how all those metrics differ, check out the original report here. With all the metrics but FedEx Cup rank based largely on fan/sponsor engagement, it’s clear that a fan favorite who struggles on the course but raises the Tour’s ticket sales, and whose involvement in various Tour events could raise sponsor interest, would be among those who benefit the most. 

Tour players have been aware of this system for months now, and were introduced to it by a retroactive look at who the system would have favored in 2019. According to the report, the Top 10 players in terms of Impact Score were as follows:

1. Tiger Woods — Two wins, one major

2. Rory McIlroy — Three wins

3. Brooks Koepka — Three wins, one major

4. Phil Mickelson — One win

5. Rickie Fowler — One win

6. Jordan Spieth — Zero wins

7. Dustin Johnson — One win

8. Justin Thomas — One win

9. Justin Rose — One win

10. Adam Scott — Zero wins

Among that group were two players, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, who did not garner a victory during the 2019 season. Two major winners from 2019, Shane Lowry and Gary Woodland, did not crack the top 10.

The report comes at an interesting time when, coincidentally, the European professional soccer circuit has been throw into a tizzy as the most popular and wealthy clubs have elected to create a “super league,” wherein they would presumably make more money and benefit from their popularity. It is also not far removed from the once-threatening Premier Golf League, which came about in early 2020, and was focused on tournaments with contracted fields of the most popular players in the world.

Rory McIlroy, who quickly decried the PGL, did note that it “exploited a couple holes” in elite pro golf and how it has transitioned from “a competition tour to entertainment.”

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.