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Woods scoops PGA Tour's $8 million popularity prize
Woods scoops PGA Tour's $8 million popularity prize

Woods scoops PGA Tour's $8 million popularity prize

Tiger Woods hasn't played in a US PGA Tour event in more than a year, but the golf great still won the inaugural Player Impact Program bonus that rewards a player's popularity.

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The 15-time major champion collects a $8 million top prize, the tour announced on Wednesday.

Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who had appeared to indicate in a December social media post that he had finished first, finished second for a $6 million bonus -- and a Twitter poke from Woods.

"Whoops," Woods tweeted, along with a screenshot of Mickelson's December post in which he thanked "all the crazies and real supporters too, who helped me win the PIP."

Northern Ireland's 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 world number one Jon Rahm of Spain each collect $3 million.

The program rewards 10 players based on an "impact score" determined by their popularity in internet searches, the number of unique news articles that include a player's name, a social media score based on a player's reach, conversation and engagement metrics, television sponsor exposure and a "general awareness" score among a broad US population.

Not all players are fans of what amounts to a popularity contest. Reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay is among those who would prefer to see tour bonuses based on on-course performance.

"I think I'm old-school in the respect that I would like the money to be doled out relative to play, and I don't think the PIP does that," Cantlay said last month.

"It may be the first departure that the tour has had from rewarding good play to rewarding social media or popularity presence, so I don't like that departure."

That Woods emerged as the winner is a testament to the continuing interest he sparks not only among keen golf enthusiasts but also among casual fans and celebrity watchers.

Woods hasn't teed it up in a PGA Tour event since the rescheduled Masters in November of 2020.

He was recovering from yet another back operation when he suffered devastating leg injuries in a one-car crash in California in February of 2021.

Woods said this month he still doesn't know when he will be ready for top-flight competition.

But he took part in the PNC Championship family tournament alongside 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 was up 53% over 2020.