Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Ron Si­rak

Jor­dan Spieth over­takes Tiger Woods as the No 1 money-earner in golf.


When the legacy of Tiger Woods is de­ter­mined, his most im­por­tant im­pact might well be the bet­ter ath­letes he at­tracted to golf. Woods did that in two ways: He made the game cool, and he made it pos­si­ble get rich – re­ally rich – by play­ing golf.

Au­gust will be the 20th an­niver­sary of Woods’ pro de­but, and in those two decades tal­ented and com­pellingly ath­letic young peo­ple have cho­sen golf over other sports. The re­sults can be seen on leader boards ev­ery week.

The Tiger Ba­bies are here, and they are tak­ing over.

For the rst time in the 13 years of the Golf Di­gest 50 all-en­com­pass­ing money list, Woods is not No 1. That hon­our goes to Jor­dan Spieth, who is 22 years old and was 3 when Tiger won his rst pro­fes­sional ma­jor cham­pi­onship, the 1997 Masters.

Spieth earned more than $53 mil­lion on and o the course ( see chart on page 82) to lead the GD50. At more than $48.5 mil­lion, Woods fell to No 3, be­hind 45-year-old Phil Mick­el­son and ahead of Rory McIl­roy, 26. Arnold Palmer, golf ’s most en­dur­ing cash ma­chine at 86, is No 5.

Don’t feel sorry for Tiger: Dur­ing his ca­reer, has earned more than $1.4 bil­lion – with a B.

The change at the top of the GD50 re­flects new ta­lent and new ways of mar­ket­ing that ta­lent. In­stead of Woods as the clear No 1 and Mick­el­son the per­pet­ual 1-A, a Big Four has emerged, con­nect­ing with their fans by tak­ing to so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal plat­forms in ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing and me­dia out­lets. The ar­rival of the Big Four of Spieth, McIl­roy, Ja­son Day (No 7 at age 28) and Rickie Fowler (No 8 at 27) could not be more fortuitous.

“With Tiger and Phil deep into the back nine, this young group came along at just the right time,” says John Mas­catello of Wasser­man Me­dia Group, which rep­re­sents Day and Fowler.

“You can never rule out any­thing with Tiger be­cause he is just an in­cred­i­ble ath­lete,” Mas­catello says, “but be­cause you no longer have to rest on any one per­son’s shoul­der, I think the game is well po­si­tioned.”

Be­cause of Woods, who also brought a fo­cus on tness, pro golfers are big­ger, younger, stronger, bet­ter, more con dent and richer than ever be­fore.

In ad­di­tion to the Big Four, this year’s GD50 in­cludes No 22 Hideki Mat­suyama, No 34 Ryo Ishikawa, No 36 Pa­trick Reed, No 46 Danny Lee, No 47 Ly­dia Ko, No 48 Sang­moon Bae and No 50 Paula Creamer. All are in their 20s – ex­cept Ko, who is just 18. Poised to pos­si­bly move into the GD50 next year are play­ers like Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, both 22; and Bran­den Grace, 27.

“There is no ques­tion pro­fes­sional golf is as healthy as it’s been in my 25 years in the game, both from an en­ter­tain­ment point of view and a com­mer­cial point of view,” says Clarke Jones, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­cas for IMG, which has Ko, Mat­suyama and Creamer among its clients, along with Palmer.

Think of it: Day was 9 when Woods won that 1997 Masters, McIl­roy was 7 and Ko was born 11 days af­ter Tiger slipped on his rst of four green jack­ets.

The depth of ta­lent in men’s golf was demon­strated last year when McIl­roy missed time with an an­kle in­jury.

“When Rory got hurt, in­stead of the PGA Cham­pi­onship and the FedEx Cup Playo s be­ing un­in­ter­est­ing, Ja­son won two of the playo events (plus the PGA), Rickie one and Spieth the other,” Mas­catello says. “The No 1 player couldn’t play for six weeks, and there was more at­ten­tion to the game



than ever.”

That was not al­ways the case when Woods was at the top and fan in­ter­est tended to wane when he was in­jured or play­ing poorly. For decades, golf po­si­tioned it­self as a sport whose value was de ned not by the size of its au­di­ence but by the qual­ity of those fans – a de­mo­graphic with buy­ing power. In the heady early days of Tiger-gen­er­ated TV rat­ings, golf got taken out of its game plan.

“Tiger got golf o mes­sage, but we all got swept up in it,” says one busi­ness in­sider, speak­ing not for at­tri­bu­tion be­cause he does busi­ness with the PGA Tour. “They got very for­tu­nate that Jor­dan came along with his squeaky-clean im­age. Rickie gets it in terms of the me­dia, the pub­lic and spon­sors. Ja­son got his act to­gether. But I still think Rory will be the guy.”

De­spite not win­ning a ma­jor in 2015, McIl­roy won twice on the PGA Tour, in­clud­ing the WGC-Cadil­lac Match Play, and three times on the Euro­pean Tour, in­clud­ing the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship.

Spieth had ve PGA Tour wins, in­clud­ing the Masters and US Open; Day had the PGA Cham­pi­onship, The Bar­clays and the BMW Cham­pi­onship among his ve tour wins; Fowler earned ti­tles at the Play­ers and the Deutsche Bank; and Zach John­son, who is No 15 on the GD50, won the Open for his sec­ond ma­jor and 12th ca­reer vic­tory.

“In terms of en­ter­tain­ment and grow­ing the game, we have some re­ally good kids: Rickie, Rory, Jor­dan and Ja­son,” says the busi­ness in­sider. “The con­sumer wants good guys. That’s who these kids are.”

Agents even speak glow­ingly of clients who are not their own, re­al­is­ing their greatness will lift the en­tire golf mar­ket the way Woods helped make money for ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with the game. Spieth is rep­re­sented by La­gardère Un­lim­ited, John­son is at Wasser­man with Day and Fowler, and McIl­roy is the sole client at Rory McIl­roy Inc.

Be­fore Tiger, the lead­ing money-win­ner on the PGA Tour made barely more than the av­er­age Ma­jor League Base­ball player. Woods changed all that. He helped quin­tu­ple PGA Tour purses and brought in new spon­sors like nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, elec­tron­ics, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and petro­chem­i­cals.

“The amount of money that com­pa­nies looked to spend in the sport in­creased, the num­ber of non-en­demic in­dus­tries grew with Tiger play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, the en­demics took a whole di er­ent view of the sport, Nike ac­tu­ally got into the golf busi­ness, the game be­came more global,” says Mark Stein­berg of Ex­cel Sports Man­age­ment, which rep­re­sents Berger and Thomas in ad­di­tion to Woods and GD50-ranked Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar.

In 1995, the year be­fore Woods turned pro, Greg Nor­man led the PGA Tour money list with $1.6 mil­lion. This year, Spieth earned more than $23 mil­lion on the golf course, in­clud­ing of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial money and his $10 mil­lion FedEx Cup bonus, an ad­di­tion to the tour dur­ing the Woods era.

Spieth also earned $30 mil­lion o the course. And there is no arena of sports mar­ket­ing not open to golfers.

“Look at Rickie Fowler,” Mas­catello says. “He has a re­la­tion­ship with Red Bull, which hadn’t been in the golf game. It used to be brand­ing and client en­ter­tain­ment. Now with so­cial me­dia you can have a cor­po­rate re­la­tion­ship with­out wear­ing a logo or show­ing up at a golf out­ing. Like Rickie and Mercedes are do­ing some dig­i­tal things to­gether, but with no logo on him.”

The new gen­er­a­tion is con­nect­ing with spon­sors and con­sumers in the same way it con­nects with fans and friends – on smart­phones. “It’s their way of life,” Stein­berg says. “Com­pa­nies now ask, ‘What is your fol­low­ing; will you be will­ing to tweet X amount of times for our brand?’ etc. Those were not the ques­tions be­ing asked in the ’90s. Times have changed, and the next gen­er­a­tion evolved with that change.”


Sit­ting at the top of that mar­ket­ing and per­for­mance pyra­mid is Spieth, who signed a 10-year con­tract ex­ten­sion with Un­der Ar­mour even be­fore he won two ma­jors in 2015. “Both par­ties went into this know­ing he would win ma­jor cham­pi­onships, and we built that into this un­prece­dented re­la­tion­ship,” says Jay Danzi, who rep­re­sents Spieth for La­gardère. “Jor­dan’s bought into a brand strat­egy from the be­gin­ning, and peo­ple are get­ting to see what an amaz­ing per­son he is.”

Adds David Carter, founder of The Sports Busi­ness Group: “Spieth’s ap­proach­a­bil­ity and lik­a­bil­ity will go a long way with a wide range of con­sumers and fans who have been con­sis­tently dis­ap­pointed by other su­per­stars.”

In Novem­ber, when Spieth trav­elled to the Aus­tralian Open, Un­der Ar­mour was all over it, set­ting up a ju­nior clinic there un­der the slo­gan “Rule Your­self ” and pro­mot­ing it on Instagram, Twit­ter and its web­site.

It’s a new world of mar­ket­ing in pro golf and a new galaxy of stars, with com­pelling ri­val­ries that might ex­tend be­yond the Big Four. And that new re­al­ity seems to have golf in a very good place.

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