Is the Player Impact Program a bust?
The 2022 results are out, and Tiger Woods has finished atop the rankings for the second year running, closely followed by Rory McIlroy. Player Impact Program offers incentive for players to promote the sport off the course. You could say it rewards those for the money they bring in and the viewers they attract.
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It does seem to be moving the sport away from a meritocracy and towards guaranteed income, which was a major criticism of LIV Golf and its huge pay-outs for players regardless of where they finish. Any PGA Tour member who has played five or more events in the current season is eligible. or five or more events in at least one of the preceding five seasons.
The PIP Criteria: A Closer Look
There are five criteria for the PIP that each carry 20% of a player’s overall PIP score. They are the Nielsen rating, Google reach, Q-Score, MVP Index, and Meltwater mentions. This requires some further analysis because they haven’t been explained by many golf analysts, and it all sounds a bit technical.
Nielsen TV ratings are the audience measurement systems operated by Nielsen Media Research that seek to determine the audience size and composition of television programming in the United States using a rating system. Thanks Google.
Google reach refers to searches, the number of times a player is searched for by name. Not too difficult.
MVP Index is an interesting one; where a player’s social media influence is measured. Cristiano Ronaldo just became the first ever person to amass half a billion followers on Instagram. His PIP rating would be pretty high.
Q Score is a general measurement for the appeal and familiarity of a brand or product – or in this case, person. It is another way if analysing sponsor exposure. An example would be the following:
Where does Rory McIlroy rank among the golfers you know?
One of my favorites. B. Very highly C. Highly D. Fair E. Poor F. Never heard of
The positive Q Score is calculated by counting how many respondents answered A divided by the number of respondents answering A-E, and calculating the percentage.
Meltwater mentions tracks how often a player is mentioned across global media. It acts as a virtuous circle, because the more a player is liked and the more we care about them, the more they are discussed and each aspect of their life is monitored. Their off-course affairs are likely to be news stories; we care more about Rory’s family life than Abe Ancer’s tequila business, for example. Scottie Scheffler led in the Meltwater mentions in 2022, thanks to a green jacket, four wins, and PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Now we know a bit more about the criteria, it reinforces that the PiP is certainly a popularity contest, and the marketability of a player goes a long way in boosting his PiP ranking. You would think that off-course shenanigans would drop a player’s rating, but Tiger is atop the rankings and has a very well-documented past, to say the least. His return to glory at Augusta in 2019 was enough to make us all a bit too excited whenever he is spotted near a golf course.
Tiger has won the $15m prize for the PGA Tour’s popularity contest, adding to his $8m pay-out in 2021. Tiger finished 1st in four of the categories, despite only playing a handful of rounds competitively. But there is clearly no direct relationship between golf played and PIP, as Jordan Spieth has had a quiet year and still bagged $9,000,000, and Scheffler finished with POTY and outside the top five.
Does this mean the PIP needs a format change? Should the weighting be focused more on a person’s social media influence, or charitable activity, or press conferences? Rory doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, and as World #1 in fine form, I’d expect he will top the rankings next season as well.
The Player Impact Performance falls into the dreaded ‘guaranteed money’ discussion – and a well-known player will still turn more heads than an in-form one. I think the PGA Tour may also fall culprit to accusations of making the rich players richer, which causes the middle and lower ranked players outside the top 125 to begin looking over at LIV Golf and waiting for an invite to play their golf elsewhere.