The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tiger Woods adds to Phil Mickelson’s rough stretch, beats rival to PGA Tour bonus

Tiger Woods, right, had just one word for Phil Mickelson: “whoops.” (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

In terms of the hits Phil Mickelson has taken lately, this one won’t top the scale, but he was still stung Wednesday when the PGA Tour revealed the beneficiaries of its inaugural Player Impact Program.

Not only did Mickelson not come in first — after having crowed about claiming the honor — he finished second to Tiger Woods, who then took the opportunity to jab at his longtime friendly rival.

Woods shared an image Wednesday of a Mickelson Twitter post from December in which Mickelson thanked “all the crazies (and real supporters too) for … Helping me win the PiP!!”

Woods had just one thing to say to Mickelson, sandwiched between a pair of shrugging emoji: “whoops.”

The Player Impact Program is not necessarily related to a given player’s performance on the Tour, which was never more clear than when Woods topped last year’s list. He was sidelined for almost all of 2021 after suffering major injuries in a February car crash, and he only returned to competitive golf in mid-December’s PNC Championship, a low-key, unofficial event that features former major winners partnering with family members.

Mickelson, however, played in 19 Tour events in 2021 and made a huge splash with a PGA Championship victory that made him the oldest man to win a golf major. While he didn’t have any other top-10 finishes last year, Mickelson placed a solid 21st at the Masters and generated buzz with another appearance in “The Match,” which saw him paired up with Tom Brady against Bryson DeChambeau and Aaron Rodgers.

Nevertheless, no one moves the needle quite like Tiger. In this competition, that’s what counts the most.

Rather than adding up the strokes taken over four days of a tournament, the PIP measures a Tour member’s year-long accumulation of positive public interest by using five metrics: Internet searches of his name (via Google); unique news articles that mention his name (Meltwater Mentions); social media reach and engagement (MVP Index); exposure of sponsors in tournament telecasts on Saturdays and Sundays (via Nielsen); and a Q-score rating of the awareness of a player among the general U.S. population.

Despite his absence from golf courses for most of the year, Woods would have generated an enormous amount of news articles and Internet searches in the wake of his crash. In addition, his participation at the PNC Championship alongside his son, Charlie, stirred plenty of interest.

For topping the 2021 PIP list, Woods got an $8 million payout, followed by Mickelson at $6 million. The rest of the top 10 players, who split a pool of $40 million, went as follows (via pgatour.com):

  • 3. Rory McIlroy ($3.5 million)
  • 4. Jordan Spieth ($3.5 million)
  • 5. Bryson DeChambeau ($3.5 million)
  • 6. Justin Thomas ($3.5 million)
  • 7. Dustin Johnson ($3 million)
  • 8. Brooks Koepka ($3 million)
  • 9. Jon Rahm ($3 million)
  • 10. Bubba Watson ($3 million)

The PIP was initiated as a means of rewarding the PGA Tour’s most popular players and to reportedly provide them with extra incentive not to be lured away by lucrative offers from other golf entities. Foremost among any potential threats to the PGA Tour has been a proposed Saudi-backed venture unofficially referred to by many as the Super Golf League (SGL).

Mickelson, who has been outspoken recently in his criticism of what he has described as the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed,” appeared to do enormous damage to the SGL and his own image when comments he provided in November to a golf journalist were made public last month. In those remarks, he asserted that he was willing to overlook the Saudi government’s “horrible record on human rights” to gain leverage against the PGA Tour. After Mickelson experienced a massive backlash, both from within the Tour and elsewhere, he issued an apology and indicated he was taking a break from competition.

All that has unfolded this year, and it remains to be seen how the saga affects Mickelson’s place on the 2022 PIP list.

In the meantime, he has another setback to deal with — albeit one that comes with a $6 million consolation prize — and another reminder that, on the PGA Tour, there is Tiger Woods and then there is everyone else.

Loading...