US PGA Tour offers $53m carrot to players to prevent defections

The US PGA Tour has created a US$40 million (S$53.2m) bonus pool for its 10 most popular stars in an effort to stave off the potential for defections to a rival golf league, Golfweek reported on Tuesday.

Called the Player Impact Program (PIP), its design is to "recognise and reward players who positively move the needle" on fan and sponsor engagement, a Tour spokesperson told Golfweek.

The US$40m will be distributed among 10 players at the end of the year, with the most valuable getting US$8m. The programme began on Jan 1.

There are six criteria the players will be judged on to determine the distributions, including ranking on season-ending FedEx Cup points, and other parameters that measure a player's appeal, such as popularity in Google search.

The results of each will be converted into Impact Scores, said Golfweek, that will create the standings and the cash distribution.

The PIP is seen as a response to the Premier Golf League, a Saudi Arabia-backed venture that has made attempts to attract the US PGA Tour's top players by promising big sums just to show up, Golfweek reported.

In its communication to players, the Tour did a simulation of the 2019 season and rendered a top 10.

Tiger Woods came out on top, followed by Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Adam Scott rounded out the top 10.

Despite being sidelined indefinitely after a bad car crash in February, Woods could conceivably still make the top 10 - or even finish No. 1 - this year, given his massive star power and global appeal.

"Tiger should be No. 1 on that list no matter what," Koepka told Golfweek.

"He's the entire reason we're able to play for so much money, the entire reason this sport is as popular as it is, and the reason most of us are playing. Not even close." - REUTERS