You gotta play well to get paid, period. Or do you?
Players regularly shooting lower scores tend to get paid more. Those that don’t quickly find themselves less employable than Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico.
Enter the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program:
- compensates Tour players judged to best drive fan and sponsor engagement
- $40M annual pool, dispersed to 10 players (top earner receiving $8M)
- metrics: internet popularity, and other Kardashian-like ratings that nobody understands
The rich will indeed get richer, whether they play well or not (or, in some cases, play at all, (cough, cough), Tiger Woods).
A calculated move keeping the PGA Tour on the offensive and offsetting a potential loss of the main reason most viewers tune in (hint: it isn’t watching Brian Harman chewing tobacco in his MegaCorp cap):
- the Tour needs its best assets to be focused mainly on the PGA Tour
- offshoot, splinter tours (e.g. Premier Golf League) are always a threat to lure top players
- the promise of guaranteed pay, independent of how well players shoot, always helps
Greg Norman tried to start something akin to this, the World Golf Tour, back in 1994.
He was rebuffed by Tim Finchem, who then “borrowed” the idea and magically invented what we know today as the WGC golf events:
- no weekend cut, guaranteed payday just for teeing up
- large World Golf Ranking points, ensuring players remain exempt for other big events
- limits marketable Tour player turnover, stifles playing status of lower ranked players
- keeps the cream of the crop well compensated and maintains a high quality status quo
Does this all sound familiar? Seems like Norman doesn’t just lose on the golf course.
The days of top players pushing the narrative of being an “independent contractor”, assuming all financial perils of travel, playing events, etc. with zero guarantee of a payday, seem gone. Honestly, as long as players can maintain the ability to qualify for the major events, there appears to be little motivation to play potentially for free rather than chase a guaranteed paycheque of sorts. And that just seems right in today’s athlete-driven sports world.
This seems to be another case of the PGA Tour being reactive rather than proactive, as usual.