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PGA Tour offering $40 million in bonus money to top stars

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, bumps fists with Jon Rahm, of Spain, on the 18th green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament on Friday, April 9, 2021, in Augusta, Ga.  (Associated Press)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, bumps fists with Jon Rahm, of Spain, on the 18th green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament on Friday, April 9, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (Associated Press)
By Doug Ferguson Associated Press

The PGA Tour is awarding a $40 million bonus pool to the top 10 players who move the needle in golf, regardless of how they perform inside the ropes.

Some of the top players and managers have loosely hinted at the plan, called the “Player Impact Program,” since the start of 2020. That was right about the time a concept known as the Premier Golf League funded in part by Saudi money was trying to lure the top players to join an international tour.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka were among the first players to say they were not interested in the league, which again met with key managers last month without making any headway.

Golfweek was the first to report that the Player Impact Program started in January.

The payout goes to the top 10 players for the year, determined by an accumulative score measuring popularity through such metrics as Q Rating, Google searches, Nielsen Brand Rating on how a player’s exposure helps sponsors and Meltwater Mentions (frequency of player coverage through various media platforms).

It also uses the MVP Index, a company founded by Shawn Spieth, the father of three-time major champion Jordan Spieth and one of the game’s most popular players. The MVP Index measures the value of engagement on social and digital channels.

A tour spokesman said the score did not involve performance on the course, such as FedEx Cup standings.

Players who earn a bonus from the program would be required to give back by playing an additional tournament, for example, or taking part in a tour marketing campaign.

“I think with media dollars being so astronomical these days, and 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 incentivize them,” Justin Rose said from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

“A rising tide lifts all ships, so obviously the whole tour has benefited very much from a group of guys.”

Golfweek said the tour ran simulated scores from 2019 to illustrate how the program would work. Tiger Woods, who won the Masters in 2019, led the list. He was followed by McIlroy, Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. Rounding out the top 10 were Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rose and Adam Scott.

Missing from that 2019 list were Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, who likely would be on the list for this year. A tour spokesman said such a list would not be published the way the FedEx Cup and world rankings are.

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