AVONDALE, La. – As details emerged this week about the PGA Tour’s new Player Impact Program, the news mostly led to more questions.
How will the $40 million bonus pool be distributed? How exactly will a player’s “impact score” be calculated? Are there any strings attached to the bonus money? Why was this program important enough for the Tour to blaze an uncharacteristic non-competition-based trail?
According to interviews with various players and sources familiar with the program, the circuit began formulating the idea in late 2019 and the measure was approved by the policy board at the ’20 Arnold Palmer Invitational; although, it appears to still be a mystery to some players.
“We don't know much about it, in all honesty,” Xander Schauffele said. “Apparently, we were told about it in January, I was not made aware – Pat [Cantlay] and I were in Hawaii - we weren't made aware of this news, maybe we were and we forgot about it.”
The bonus pool will reward $8 million to the player with the best “impact score” – which will be determined by various ratings that track a player’s popularity, social/traditional media impact and where he finished on the FedExCup points list – with $6 million going to second place, $3.5 million going to those ranked third through sixth and $3 million going to Nos. 7-10.
According to various sources, the algorithm that will organize the data and create each player’s score has been designed to include items that impact the Tour in a positive way which means, for example, the media exposure created by Tiger Woods’ single-vehicle car crash earlier this year in Los Angeles likely wouldn’t factor into his impact score.
Although the program was a direct response to the Premier Golf League, a proposed startup tour that is reportedly being funded by the Saudi Arabian regime, it’s also clear that the Tour wanted to recognize the impact Woods has had on the circuit’s popularity throughout his career.
“If we look at over a few years the guys who really drive the Tour, the guys who bring in the money to the PGA Tour, in my opinion, I think we should thank them,” Horschel said. “I look at as we’re thanking them, we’re thanking one guy [Woods] and now multiple guys because of what they’re going to do in the future. We have an amazing TV contract now that is going to be beneficial for all Tour players. If Tour players actually look at this, they’re going to be rewarded in a lot of different ways.”
The bonus money won’t come without a few strings attached. There will be certain requirements to collect the entire bonus, like adding an event to a player’s schedule they normally wouldn’t play or meeting with a potential or current sponsor.
While the focus will be on the top players, the Tour has created various programs in recent years to encourage players to be more engaged with social and traditional media. The player with a low impact score likely won’t be cracking the top 10 but they can have incremental gains which might lead to more endorsement possibilities.
“If you're 11th in the FedExCup points or ninth or 10th or wherever you are and if you're not active on social media and that costs you, it sounds like it could be quite a lot of money. It's something that I've looked at and I heard about it a couple of months ago, I'm trying to become more active, just in case you do get a hot hand and start pushing that edge,” Marc Leishman said. “Some guys sell a lot of tickets and I think those guys it gives them some incentive to maybe play extra events or something.”