Most popularity contests have no winner. The PGA Tour’s had two.
On Wednesday, the Tour announced the winners of its inaugural Player Impact Program, a $40 million bonus pool dedicated to 10 players recording the highest composite score across a series of popularity-measuring metrics. Tiger Woods came away the program’s winner, claiming the $8 million winner’s prize despite playing in only a single, non-sanctioned PGA Tour event in 2021.
That news might come as a surprise to most golf fans, particularly the ones who witnessed Phil Mickelson claim victory on Twitter just before the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“I’d like to thank all the crazies (and real supporters too) for … helping me win the PiP!!” Mickelson tweeted Dec. 29, two days before the contest’s official completion. “To get the 2nd half of the money I have to add an event I haven’t played in a while. See you in Kapalua.”
According to the Tour’s announcement, Mickelson actually finished second in the PIP, finishing just behind Woods and collecting $6 million for his efforts.
Rounding out the top-six were Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas — all of whom collected $3.5 million checks. DeChambeau’s case is a peculiar one. The mercurial star’s stranglehold on the golf news cycle seemed to make him a favorite to finish in the top-three, but ultimately his Q-Score (a measure of likeability) dipped him beneath McIlroy and Spieth.
Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson filled out the remainder of the top 10 and all received $3 million.
There were a handful of notable omissions — a group led by Collin Morikawa. The 25-year-old cemented himself as the game’s brightest young star in 2021, winning his second major in a calendar year at the Open Championship. Still, he apparently finished one spot out of the money in 11th place. Morikawa seems to have taken the loss well, cheekily adopting the new nickname “Co11in.”
Golf’s preeminent Twitter star, Max Homa, was also left off the list, along with one of the sport’s most marketed players, Rickie Fowler. According to the Tour, neither Homa (and his 333,000 Twitter followers) nor Fowler (and his 1.8 million) did enough to usurp Watson, who was a surprise finisher in the top-10.
Of course, Mickelson will receive the most attention for his PIP placement after his premature claim of victory. Tiger edged Phil’s final score by a slim margin thanks to advantages in Google search, Meltwater Mentions (a measure of social media engagement) and Q-Score.
Yes, the history books will remember Tiger Woods as the PIP’s inaugural winner, but the rest of us will remember Phil’s glorious, three-month victory lap. And isn’t that the point?