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TEE TO GREEN: The PIP and guaranteed money are contrary to golf’s brutal DNA

Phil Mickelson.

Well, the results are in. Sort of. And they missed the point so much it’s hardly believable.

The fervour has been matched recently only by Tiger Woods hirpling through two rounds with his bairn. We now understand that Phil Mickelson is the first winner of the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program(me), or PIP for short.

This is the device for the PGA Tour to, depending on your view, either a) reflect the importance of modern media streams, specifically social media used by young people or b) give more money to players already drowning in it as a sop to keep them away from the Saudis’ Bonesaw Tour.

Getting golf to a younger audience

Initially, I kind of liked the idea that it was a). Golf remains an old folks’ game, with a massive proportion of watchers and players over the age of 40 and way beyond.

As I’ve argued before in T2G, the idea that standard TV coverage is the preferred vehicle to showplace golf (in fact any sport) to kids and young people is utterly spurious in 2022. None of them are watching it. They’re all watching streaming and social media.

Therefore, reflecting this by acknowledging the reach of modern media streams seemed to me to be a solid way to move the game out of the age group ghetto it’s been stranded in for so long.

Only Mickelson, who turned 51 this year, won (he claims, although in tangled recent traditions of American democracy, this is disputed with some “late” votes having been uncovered). Tiger Woods, 46 last week, was apparently second.

Seriously? Now I’m sure that both Phil and Tiger consider themselves to be pretty cool and down with the kids. There may be a few young people who even agree.

But I’ve been there myself not too long ago, and this is a common delusion among Dads (and Mums) in their late 40s and early 50s, regardless of public profile. We’re just somehow blind to the rolling eyes of our progeny.

Bryson should be calling for a recount

If I was Bryson DeChambeau, for example, I’d be calling for more recounts than Donald Trump. He’s got a Youtube channel, dammit!

Everything Bryson seemed to do in 2021 appeared on social media in some form. Yet he’s beaten by a guy who fluked a major in his fifties (no other top tens) and a guy who played two competitive rounds in a hit-and-giggle with a 12-year-old?

Others have questioned the veracity of the figures. Ian Poulter, who actually puts the hard yards in on social media of all sorts, raised a suspicious eyebrow on Twitter.

Collin Morikawa apparently finished 11th in PIP and therefore out of the money for probably the only time this year. Typically, he posted a wholesome Instagram of his labradoodle in a jokey but vain attempt at rousing the (gargantuan) doggy fanbase on social media.

The PGA Tour originally said they weren’t going to reveal details of the PIP list (the winner gets $8m, down to 10th with $3m, 11th gets diddly squat). They seemed slightly piqued Phil revealed his “victory” on Twitter and let it be known he’d jumped the gun before the figures from Tiger’s return had been tabulated.

What figures exactly are we talking about? That’s a mystery too. Apparently it’s a multitude of “metrics” that measure overall impact.

Aye. Sorry to be unreconstructed, but whenever I hear the word “metrics” my eyes roll quicker than my children’s when I wear a hoodie. It’s a 2020s word that can mean absolutely anything (or nothing) you want it to.

Maybe it was reason b) all along

Which makes you think that it’s been reason b) all along. Certainly driving more cash into the pockets of the elite earners is all part of the drive of professional golf nowadays.

The PGL, SGL, Bonesaw League etc are all about “rewarding top players”. Yes, the WGC events (such as they continue to exist) were about that as well, but at least we were talking 156 players in most of them and you had to qualify in some regard.

They were a reward for good play. Whether that was consistency in results, or even just a hot week by a Joe Journeyman, it was all about merit.

The PGA and DP World Tour still are, mostly. You do get preferential treatment for great achievement, and that’s all good and proper. But it lasts only as long as you continue to merit it. There are no endless free passes.

All the proposed leagues want to do away with that. If you’ve got a “name”, you’re in, no matter how much you’ve stunk it up in the last few months. There’s no awkward Joe Journeymen here, and if you’re up-and-coming, we better like the cut of your jib.

It might be that this is the 21st century, and this is what appeals to the market. Maybe the world really does want Tiger and Phil in perpetuity.

The brutal meritocracy of golf is in its DNA

But really, it’s not golf. In this game, uniquely, there is a longevity there for you not available in almost any other sports.

But (at all ages) you have to play well. From that you get to play more, and from that you win great money. When you don’t play well, after a while you’re gone, sometimes at bewildering speed.

It can be brutal, perhaps most for those who have made that intoxicating walk up the 18th with thousands cheering. That must be a heady, exhilarating experience, and I get that they want more.

But it has to end, even for golfers. It’s not as bad as footballers, who all seem to end up as talking heads on Sky Sports News. There’s the Champions Tour, or maybe a bit of golf course design.

But sustaining careers on the main tours with “guaranteed money” from playing in so-called “premier leagues” or from PIP metrics, is just totally contrary to golf’s DNA.