MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Try and tweet as he might, Jim Herman could win this week ... and the week after that ... and all three FedExCup playoff events ... and still probably not crack the top 10 in the PGA Tour’s new Player Impact Program.
Started in January but made public in April, the Tour’s $40 million program uses a handful of metrics to recognize and reward those who best move the needle.
Metrics like Nielsen Brand Exposure. Q Rating. Meltwater Mentions.
Metrics that 43-year-old Jim Herman had likely never heard of until the Tour memo announcing the program, but that hasn’t stopped the journeyman and three-time Tour winner from entering the fray. Encouraged to build what had been a non-existent brand, he fired up Twitter, cracked his knuckles and introduced a different side of himself. Or at least an alter ego.
Of course, with his loyal but light follower base of 16,000, Herman knows he has little chance to finish in the top 10 ... or the top 50.
Following his opening 64 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, he was asked where he thinks he realistically ranks currently in the PIP. “I rank about 100,” he said, breaking into a smile. “But that’s 100th heading toward first.”
Even if he won’t cash in – and to be clear, he will not – Herman is having fun showing more of his true self, the side you can’t see behind his shades as he competes in near-anonymity on Tour. At last, he has found the freedom to be publicly who he has long been in private: fun, witty, self-deprecating, cheeky.
“Like everybody,” he said, “we say things and we hide behind our tablet or our phone.”
Herman started his account five or six years ago – long before the PIP – and his manager always believed the social-media activation could lead to something bigger, such as more sponsors or a sweeter club deal, for the player whose career began as an assistant pro at Trump Bedminster.
“That obviously hasn’t been the case,” Herman said, who sports only three sponsors on his shirt and hat – practically nothing compared to some of his peers who resemble bulletin boards or NASCAR drivers. “But Twitter can be an interesting experience, so we’re trying to keep it funny and light and just have fun with it. Too many people take things too seriously on Twitter, so we’re just trying to poke a little fun at a few things and poke fun at myself as well.”
The cynic would say that Herman should spend more time practicing than popping off on Twitter. An out-of-nowhere winner at the Wyndham Championship 51 weeks ago, Herman has dropped from 91st in the world to 144th. His best finish, a tie for 20th, was in his most recent start. Had he not won last year, at No. 170 in the FedExCup standings, he’d be looking at a Q-School this fall.
But even though it has now become a running joke, Herman doesn’t measure his career in wins and rankings, nor his value in some quasi-objective popularity contest.
“It’s not life or death, by any means,” he said. “I’ve got children, and being around and being a father, there’s a lot more to me than just being a professional golfer.”
And that’s worth more than any $8 million bonus.