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How Much is Too Much - The Question of Money in Pro Golf

By: | Fri 23 Apr 2021 | Comments

Just as we are recovering from the nonsense that was the ill-fated and very short-lived European Super League, comes news of yet another way to give golf's wealthiest players even more money.

First reported by Eamon Lynch in GolfWeek, the PGA Tour's Player Impact Program will identify the 10 golfers who produce the most engagement from fans and sponsors (or 'needle movers' as they are described) and give them $40m to carve up between them. To be clear, it means players will be judged by their influence off the course rather than tournament results.

This is over and above the bonus pool they receive from the FedEx Cup.

To put this in some kind of perspective for you, in 2019, 114 players earned at least $1m in prize money on the PGA Tour. Brooks Koepka topped the list with $9.7m in prize money alone, with Rory McIlroy next on $7.8m. McIlroy won the FedEx Cup and duly received a $15m bonus, taking him to $22.8m. And that is without taking into account his off-course earnings. Justin Thomas has already picked up $5.6m this season. Do these guys sound like they need more money?

The Tour says that its new programme is designed to compensate players who produce the most engagement from fans and sponsors. The fund will be distributed among 10 players at the end of the year, with the most valuable getting $8m, while the list is not set to be published in the same way that the FedExCup and World Rankings are made public.

Those 10 players will be determined based on their impact score within the sport, with that number coming from combining several measures that can be used to quantify a golfer's added value to the game. 

Tiger Woods

One system used will be the MVP Index, a company founded by the father of three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, which measure the value of engagement on social and digital channels. The Nielsen Brand Exposure rating - which places a value on the length of time players feature in TV broadcasts and the possible exposure for sponsors - will also be used, along with a golfer's popularity when searched on Google. 

The frequency a golfer generates coverage across a range of media platforms will be taken into account as well as their Q Rating, which measures the familiarity and appeal of a player's brand. 

The leading scorer from 2019 would have been Tiger Woods - no surprise there since that was the year he won The Masters. He was followed by McIlroy, Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, with Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Thomas, Justin Rose and Adam Scott rounding out the top 10. Remember that this was at a time when Spieth could not hit a barn door. Woods is highly unlikely to get anywhere near playing a competitive round in 2021 but as a result of his car accident and the attendant publicity surrounding his recovery, it would be no surprise if he were to top the list again this year. And be handed $8m without hitting a shot in anger! The only other contender is likely to be Bryson DeChambeau, who continues to attract huge interest on social media.

These men are already millionaires many times over. Don’t you think that $40m could be better spent in many, many other ways? Like helping to get more black children playing the game. Like getting children of any colour involved in the game? Like finding ways to engage with girls and women?

No doubt the players will attempt to justify the scheme. 

Justin Rose

England’s Justin Rose said: "There are concepts around the world that want to focus on the best players and the best players being together more often, right I think with media dollars being so astronomical these days and obviously four, five, six guys always being the ones that are being used to promote the tournament. I guess it's just a way of trying to sort of incentivise them and help them out.”

Incentivise them to do precisely what Justin? Their jobs? Any player who is “used” to promote a tournament is already very handsomely rewarded.

"Obviously the whole PGA Tour has benefited from a group of guys, but if you really want to think about it, one guy (Tiger Woods) for so long that it's just a way of maybe saying thank you."

I really don’t think we need to be giving Woods any more money to thank him for everything he has done for the game, do you? He is one of the richest athletes on the planet.

"Obviously there's lots of ways that that money could also be used in different ways to support the Tour so there's going to be lots of people with different opinions. Let's just see what the reaction is."

"You do want to incentivise the top players to create content," Rose added. "It's very easy for the top players to say no because it doesn't serve them. If you are looking at content creation... that's where it's coming down to these days. If it serves the fan and if it serves the game of golf, and it gives the guys a much better reason to say yes to something, then it's probably a good thing for everybody. Hopefully, that's the way it's intended."

There isn’t a player in the game worth the name who doesn’t already engage with fans through social media - trust me, they don’t need any more money.

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup daily picks

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