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The PGA Tour announced that Tiger Woods topped the Player Impact Program (PIP) standings, despite Phil Mickelson claiming that he took top honours in December last year. Whilst Woods pockets a smooth $8m bonus in a season in which he did not compete on the PGA Tour, there were some bigger surprises. In some cases, they were shock exclusions. In others, inclusions.
Before we get into that, the PIP is measured by five metrics - the player’s popularity in Google Search, the value a player delivers to sponsors, the familiarity and appeal of a player’s brand, the value a player drives through social media engagement and the global media coverage a player receives.
The standings are broken down below:
PGA Tour PIP Standings:
1. Tiger Woods ($8m)
2. Phil Mickelson ($6m)
3. Rory McIlroy ($3.5m)
4. Jordan Spieth ($3.5m)
5. Bryson DeChambeau ($3.5m)
6. Justin Thomas ($3.5m)
7. Dustin Johnson ($3m)
8. Brooks Koepka ($3m)
9. Jon Rahm ($3m)
10. Bubba Watson ($3m)
5 BIGGEST SURPRISES FROM THE PIP:
Matsuyama is the most successful Japanese golfer in PGA Tour history, culminated by his 2021 Masters victory in which he became the first male Japanese winner of a Major championship. The image of his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, bowing on the 18th green lives long in the memory of golfing purists.
More than half of the country’s televisions tuned in to watch Matsuyama’s victory and the country’s national alert system, which is only strictly used for messages of emergency and natural disaster, sent out a notice of congratulations moments after Matsuyama holed the final putt.
Just two weeks after his victory at Augusta National, Matsuyama received the Prime Minister’s Award. To put into perspective, the award was previously given to the Hayabusa2 space probe team that successfully brought home soil and gas samples from an asteroid to aid research into the origins of life and the evolution of the solar system.
With such a reception for his first Major championship victory, it is very difficult to understand why he failed to make the top-10 in the PIP standings on this achievement alone.
Bubba Watson is one of three within the top-10 of the PIP standings who didn't win in 2021, joining Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Watson's on-course season was best defined by a T6 finish at the Rocket Mortgage Classic as he failed to finish in the top-20 in eight of his 17 appearances.
Watson's inclusion can be put down purely to his off-course activity. The two-time Major winner has amassed a combined 2 million followers across Twitter and Instagram as he frequently shares insight into his personal and charitable life; as well as the odd moment of hilarity #yourewelcome
In November, Watson published a book titled: "Up and Down: Victories and Struggles in the Course of Life" where he revealed that chasing, and achieving, his golfing dreams came at the detriment of his mental health.
When you look back at the 2021 season, you can make a very strong case that Collin Morikawa's performance was the strongest. In his 24 PGA Tour appearances, he finished inside the top-10 on 13 separate occasions.
The Las Vegas native's season was best defined by his Open Championship victory at Royal St. Georges, where he became the first player since Bobby Jones in 1926 to win two Majors in eight or fewer starts. He also became the first player to win two different majors in their debut appearance. As if this success wasn't enough, he became the first American to win the Race to Dubai on the European Tour (now DP World Tour).
Morikawa had such an amazing season that to see him fail to make the PIP standings on his on-course performance alone is somewhat mystifying. Whilst declaring he was divided over "crazy" PIP money, he revealed he came in eleventh place - labelling himself: "Co11in".
There is no doubt that Max Homa is a PGA Tour fan favourite. The three-time Tour winner often uses Twitter to share valuable tournament insight, as well as poke fun at his fellow professionals, golf fans and... himself.
Whilst his social profiles are engaging, there is certainly more to him and that is something he admitted to ESPN last year: "I definitely feel like in the last year or so I probably shouldn't continue to be looked at as a 'Twitter guy' - but I guess that's just what it is. He added: "I don't mind it. It's been really cool meeting and kind of engaging with a lot of people who are in the golf world and who watch golf and just fans of the game. So, it's cool to be a part of that. At the same time, it's like it's just not exactly what I'm going for. It just kind of fell in my lap."
Homa is right, he is not just a 'Twitter guy'. His 2021 season included two victories; first at the Genesis Invitational where he was presented with the trophy by his hero, Tiger Woods, and the second later in the year at the Fortinet Championship.
With on-course success and off-course popularity it was surprising not to see him feature in the PIP standings.
Patrick Cantlay's 2021 season rivals that of Collin Morikawa - outstanding. Victories at the Memorial Tournament, BMW Championship and the Tour Championship propelled the 29-year old to the top of the FedEx Cup standings, earning him a smooth $15m bonus in the process. Cantlay's performances awarded him the Player of the Year as a result.
With such on-course dominance it's surprising that he failed to make the PIP standings but perhaps that's more to do with his 'brand'. Cantlay is very deliberate in his technique, his words and his image and is not one to be influenced for profit. Speaking about the PIP standings at the Genesis Invitational, he said: "It may be the first departure that the Tour has had from rewarding good play to rewarding social media or popularity presence, so I don’t like that departure.”
Cantlay's self imposed limit in online presence goes to show just how influential social media can be in the PIP standings.
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James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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