A few days before Rory McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world, he was asked if he could accept being No. 2 for the foreseeable future.
The topic, of course, was the Player Impact Program, and McIlroy smiled.
“Hey, I gave him a pretty good run,” McIlroy said.
That would be Tiger Woods, who won the PIP bonus pool for the second year despite playing only nine rounds in three majors. He also was in town for the BMW Championship in Wilmington, Delaware, but only to attend a player-only meeting that led to the PGA Tour reshaping its schedule.
McIlroy had a big year without adding to his major total. Along with winning the FedEx Cup for a record third time, two other tournaments and getting back to No. 1 in the world ranking, he was the strongest and most frequent voice in support of the PGA Tour’s challenge from Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
McIlroy said he was second behind Woods. As for that good run? McIlroy said he finished in the top 10 in all but one category for the PIP. With the expanded program, the payout for McIlroy was $12 million.
That contributed to a big season, financially, too. McIlroy’s earnings, which includes bonus money, came out to $40,354,566.
That breaks down to $8,654,566 from prize money in 15 tournaments, $18 million for winning the FedEx Cup, $1.7 million for being sixth in the Comcast Business Tour Top 10 for the regular season, and the $12 million from the PIP.
While that’s more than the $35.6 million Dustin Johnson earned from his eight LIV Golf events, Johnson also received a signing bonus reported to be worth around $150 million over four years, which ostensibly would put him north of $70 million for the year.
The PIP money is still being finalized, and the PGA Tour is expected to release the list sometime before or after Thanksgiving week.
Two lists were in play — the original PIP plan that used such metrics as social media engagement, brand exposure, Q-rating, Internet searches and awareness, and the new criteria that leans more on media mentions and broadcast exposure than social media.
The PIP also was expanded to 20 players instead of 10, and using both lists for 2022, some 23 players are expected to receive bonus money from the $100 million program.
Five players from the inaugural PIP list — Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Bubba Watson — are now with LIV Golf.
Starting with 2023, the top 20 players receive their PIP bonus after competing in the 13 elevated events for which they are eligible and three non-elevated events. One exception is Woods. The commissioner has discretion to award PIP money to those who don’t meet the tournament minimum because of serious injury or other emergency.
PARITY ON THE LPGA TOUR
Lydia Ko could become the fourth player to reach No. 1 in the world in women’s golf. Six players still have a mathematical chance to win LPGA player of the year.
Two tournaments remain on the LPGA Tour, and it’s already abundantly clear this season has been all about parity.
That point was driven home in the Toto Japan Classic last week when Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland became the 11th first-time winner on the LPGA Tour, tying a record set in 1995. New LPGA winners that year included Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb.
The 30 tournaments played so far this year have been won by 25 players (one was a team event), and the winners have come from 14 countries. The United States leads the way with seven titles, followed by South Korea with four.
Next up is the Pelican Women’s Championship, where Ko can clinch the points-based award for player of the year by winning. She currently leads by one point over Minjee Lee (who is not playing), while Brooke Henderson and 19-year-old Atthaya Thitikul are still in the mix. Two others, Jennifer Kupcho and In Gee Chun, will be eliminated if they don’t win this week.
Thitikul, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, also is on the verge of securing rookie of the year. Hye-Jin Choi has to win the Pelican Women’s Championship to remain in the race.
Lydia Ko has two tournaments left to try to reach No. 1 again. Jin Young Ko, who slipped to No. 2, also can get back to the top of the ranking. It’s that close, as it’s been all year.
Tiger Woods was last seen competing on Friday of the British Open, when he missed the cut at St. Andrews. He could be playing as many as three times in December.
All that officially is on the schedule is another made-for-TV exhibition on Dec. 10 at Pelican Golf Club south of Tampa, Florida. He teams with Rory McIlroy in a 12-hole match under the lights against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
That will be a week after the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where Woods is the tournament host and expected to play. A week after the TV match is what might as well be a fifth major for Woods — the PNC Championship, where he and son Charlie were runner-up a year ago.
Willie Mack III already was assured of some status on the Korn Ferry Tour next year. He gave himself a boost with a 66 on the final day of Q-school to move well inside the top 40, tying for 12th.
That means Mack is guaranteed eight starts before the priority list is reshuffled.
It’s been quite a trek to this level for Mack, who won 11 times at Bethune-Cookman, became the first Black golfer to win the Michigan Amateur and spent the next decade toiling on mini-tours and sleeping in his car to not let go of his dream.
The biggest boost was the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour, geared toward creating opportunities for minority golfers. Mack last year was the player of the year.
Mack twice has made the cut in PGA Tour events. This will be the first time he has a guaranteed place on a PGA Tour-sanctioned circuit, which takes him at least to April.
Watching him Monday was his father, who twice put his house in foreclosure to help Mack pursue his dream.
“You don’t mind doing those things for your child when you’re doing something positive. He was doing something very great,” Willie Mack Jr. said. “I always told him, ‘If you believe in something, never give up.’ And he hasn’t.”
Farmers Insurance is adding $25,000 in prize and bonus money to the APGA Tour Farmers Insurance Fall Series Finale, pushing the total prize fund for the tour to more than $1 million for the first time. ... Minjee Lee is on the verge of claiming $1 million from Aon Risk-Reward Challenge. The only one who could catch her is Xiyu Lin, who would need two eagles this week at the Pelican Women’s Championship. Scottie Scheffler already won the award on the PGA Tour. ... Bernhard Langer has won in each of his 16 years on the PGA Tour Champions. Eleven of his 44 wins came after he turned 60.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The LPGA Tour has six players who already have topped $2 million for the year. That’s twice as many as the previous record in 2014 and 2019.
“I don’t think I would have done it unless I had kind of failed so many times.” — Russell Henley on winning at Mayakoba after five straight times of failing to convert at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
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