Tiger Woods hasn’t played a US PGA Tour event in over a year, but the golf great still won the inaugural Player Impact Program bonus that rewards a player’s popularity.
The 15-time major champion will receive a top prize of $8 million, the tour announced on Wednesday.
Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who appeared to have finished first in a social media post in December, finished second for a $6 million bonus — and a Twitter poke from Woods.
“Oops,” Woods tweeted, along with a screenshot of Mickelson’s December post in which he also thanked “all the crazy and true supporters who helped me win the PIP.”
Northern Irish Rory McIlroy and Americans Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas will all receive $3.5 million from the $50 million PIP bonus pool.
Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and the world number one, Jon Rahm from Spain, each collect $3 million.
The program will reward 10 players based on an “impact score” determined by their popularity in web searches, the number of unique news articles with a player’s name, a social media score based on a player’s reach, conversation and engagement stats, exposure to television sponsors, and a “general awareness” score among a broad U.S. population.
Not all players are fans of what amounts to a popularity contest. Reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay is one of those who would rather see tour bonuses based on track performance.
“I think I’m old-fashioned in that I would like the money to be distributed in proportion to the play, and I don’t think the PIP does that,” Cantlay said last month.
“It may be the tour’s first departure from rewarding good play to rewarding social media or popularity, so I don’t like that departure.”
That Woods emerged as the winner is testament to the continued interest he has aroused not only among avid golf enthusiasts, but also casual fans and celebrities.
Woods has not played it in a PGA Tour event since the rescheduled Masters in November 2020.
He was recovering from another back surgery when he suffered devastating leg injuries in a California car accident in February 2021.
Woods said this month he still doesn’t know when he will be ready for top-level competition.
But he competed in the PNC Championship family tournament with son Charlie in December, and the PGA Tour noted that NBC Sports reported a total weekend audience for the unofficial event of 2.3 million viewers, a 53% increase from 2020 .