Why the PGA Tour's Player Impact Program just became more important—and more lucrative—moving forward
In sum and dollar signs and significance, the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program is expanding.
Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a number of enhancements to the tour and its schedule during a Wednesday press conference at the season-finale Tour Championship in Atlanta, changes made to incentivize the game’s top talent to remain on the PGA Tour rather than defect to LIV Golf. One of the conduits to accomplish that will be through the PIP initiative, which was created last year to financially reward the most popular players.
The inaugural program somewhat backfired; five of the 10 winners in 2021—Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson—have left the tour for the Saudi-backed circuit. However, the improvements announced Wednesday to the PIP have broadened its scope.
What initially catches the eye is the dramatic bump in payouts. Last year $40 million was spread among those on the list. After an earlier announcement that the PIP would be $50 million this year, Monahan said Wednesday the PIP will be handing out $100 million in bonuses. The list is also doubling, from 10 players to 20.
But perhaps the most consequential alteration is what making the PIP list does for a player going forward.
In 2023, the tour is moving to a new schedule, one in which will feature 12 elevated events, in addition the majors and the Players Championship, and a commitment from the game’s “top players” to compete in at least 20 tournaments. A “top player” will now defined by the tour as an individual who finishes in the top 20 in the PIP, meaning make the list grants invites into the tour's biggest events featuring the biggest purses.
Eight of the elevated events have been announced—the three legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial, WGC-Dell Match Play and the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Four other events will be announced at a later date.
Some of the existing PIP criteria will be adjusted, such as removing the Q-Score and social-media criteria, and expanding “awareness criteria” to capture the awareness from casual and core fan base. Monahan acknowledged players could gain entrance into the elevated events strictly based on their PIP standing rather than on-course performance. While there is some ambiguity on that front, Monahan said more answers will be coming shortly.
“When we come back and announce when what we're doing with those four events, where those events are being played, what the eligibility requirements are for, what field sizes are, these are the lot of the things that we're going to be working through over the next 45 to 60 days, we'll be able to answer that uniformly,” Monahan said.
The PIP changes will begin immediately for the 2022 list. Monahan said the changes were vital to the threat the tour faces and enhance the product delivered to fans.
“For us, what we're trying to do is to make certain that as we look to '23, one, the best players in the world continue to play on the PGA Tour, be committed to the PGA Tour, and the Player Impact Program is something we've been … I've said it before, after two years we were going to be looking at it and assessing it,” Monahan said. “And as we think about the changes we're making to the competitive schedule, making this commitment to PIP now, making it retroactive, that's something that I suggested to our board coming out of the PAC and wanted to make certain that we had that announcement and we're making this announcement concurrent with the schedule announcement that we're making today.
“It's atypical, but I think when you're in a situation like this, that's understood.”