Some things in Tiger Woods’ life are constants. The paychecks are one of them.
On Tuesday, a report from the Associated Press‘s Doug Ferguson named Tiger the winner of the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program for the second consecutive year, edging out Rory McIlroy to win the PGA Tour’s controversial new bonus pool. As winner, Woods will take home a plurality of the PIP’s $100 million fund, which will reportedly be split between some 23 players.
It should be noted that Tiger’s victory will give him two more PIP titles (2) than PGA Tour starts (0) since the beginning of 2021 — a point that underscores the strange nature of the PIP, a bonus pool conceived primarily as a popularity contest and birthed by the growing threat of LIV Golf. McIlroy reportedly finished second in the tally, collecting some $12 million amid a season that has seen him reascend to the No. 1 World Ranking and become one of the sport’s most important figureheads.
Still, it doesn’t take a statistician to understand how Woods won the award for a second straight season. Even with injuries stemming from his February 2020 car accident that forced him into the twilight of his playing career, Tiger proved himself golf’s most prominent figure again in only three starts in ’22. Whenever that very-large check from the PGA Tour clears, it will not only be well-earned, it’ll be a few million short of the value he brought to the PGA Tour. In fact, that’s one of the other constants of Tiger’s life: he’s underpaid.
At the Masters and PGA Championship, some things were as they’ve always been for Tiger. Both events were preempted by months-long intrigue in the state of his game and highlighted by massive television ratings during play, even if both performances flamed out before Sunday. At the Open Championship, Woods dominated tournament week in typical fashion without even making it to the weekend. After arriving in St. Andrews to much fanfare, his emotional walk over Swilcan Bridge proved the seminal moment of the golf season, captivating the sports world even in a Friday missed cut.
Some things had changed. Tiger was no longer the dominant player in 2022 he’d been for the previous quarter-century. His body was unusually limited. His gait was reduced to a limp. But if you looked close enough, you could see something that looked like the old Tiger, and that was good enough.
Reinvention, after all, is what he does better than anyone. And for the first time in 2022, his latest reinvention was not felt between the ropes. His comments at the Genesis Invitational and Masters struck an early blow to LIV Golf’s public standing and rallied crucial support behind the Tour. His forceful criticism at the Open Championship proved one of the PGA Tour’s lone north stars in three months of summer chaos. The unprecedented emergency meeting he convened with top pros in August — the one that resulted in wholesale changes to the PGA Tour structure — stuffed gauze into the Tour’s slow but persistent bleed.
His words weighed heavy on the golf world during this time, but they weighed disproportionately on the PIP, which considers a handful of media metrics in assessing a player’s popularity. With his face reverberating around every network in the world, it was nearly impossible for Woods not to win this year’s tally. That was by design, even if Tiger never quite realized it.
This, in a strange way, is the reason why his PIP victory matters at all. It’s the only reminder the rest of us will receive about how much of his legacy has changed these last 11 months.
The money is irrelevant, and so is the title, but the implication is not: change is the most reliable constant.
Even for Tiger Woods.