'PGA Tour Owes Hideki Matsuyama An Apology' - PIP Fallout

Golf fans react after Hideki Matsuyama, the first male Japanese winner of a Major championship, finished outside the top-10 in the Player Impact Program

Hideki Matsuyama Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour released the results of the Player Impact Program (PIP) and, despite Phil Mickelson claiming that he won the award in December, Tiger Woods came atop of the standings and scooped the $8 bonus. The PIP has caused a lot of controversary since its inception, with many seeing it as none other than a popularity contest that rewards the richest stars of the game.

According to the PGA Tour, the PIP is based on:

  • Internet Searches: Number of times a player’s name is searched on the internet;
  • Earned Media: Number of unique news articles that include a player’s name;
  • Social Media: Social media score that considers a player’s reach, conversation and engagement metrics;
  • TV Sponsor Exposure: Duration (time) that a player’s sponsor logo(s) appears on screen during Saturday and Sunday PGA TOUR telecasts;
  • Awareness: A player’s general awareness score among broad U.S. population.

The criteria would suggest a heavy weighting towards the United States population and is perhaps evidenced with eight of the top-10 golfers in the standings being American. Perhaps the most shocking is the omission of Hideki Matsuyama.

Michael Wolf, President of 288 Sports, said: “The fact this program only measured impacts with English speaking audiences is both shameful and short sighted. The PGA Tour owes Hideki Matsuyama an apology.” One Twitter user added: “Hideki not being in the top-10 after one of the most consequential majors in history is one of the worst indictments of the system (and what it incentivises).” Another stated: “Hideki should be no worse than fifth on that list.”

PLAYER IMPACT PROGRAM TOP-10

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)

Few will argue that Matsuyama’s influence to golf have been nothing more than monumental and his 2021 achievements seem to have highlighted a potential flaw in the PIP criteria. 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.

Andy Yamanaka, Secretary General of the Japan Golf Association, described the victory as a “dream”. He said, “Honestly, who could have even imagined it? It’s more than a dream, really. I can’t find the words to explain it.”

Could we see some changes in the PIP criteria off the back of this? Watch this space. 

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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.