(Reuters) -Tiger Woods has not competed in any official tournament for over a year but he still beat PGA Tour big hitters Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm to win the inaugural Player Impact Program and its $8 million first prize, the U.S.-based circuit said on Wednesday.
The concept, which awarded a combined $40 million to the top 10 finishers, was implemented in 2021 as a way to reward players who positively "move the needle" and generate the most positive interest in the PGA Tour.
Woods suffered career-threatening leg injuries in a car crash last February and spent a sizeable portion of the year out of the spotlight before competing with his 12-year-old son in an unofficial 36-hole tournament last December.
A month earlier Woods lit up social media when he posted a video of him swinging a club beside a half-full bucket of balls, along with the caption "making progress."
Mickelson, who became golf's oldest major champion at last year's PGA Championship and is currently taking a break from the sport amid fallout from comments he made about the Saudi-funded golf league, collected $6 million as the runner-up.
Mickelson claimed in a tweet https://twitter.com/PhilMickelson/status/1476217635771670544 posted in late December that he won the PGA Tour's $8 million. Woods, after being announced as the winner on Wednesday, took a shot at Mickelson on Twitter as he posted a copy of the six-time major champion's original post along with the caption "whoops" https://twitter.com/TigerWoods/status/1499072747703611399.
McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas finished third to sixth, respectively, and each received $3.5 million.
Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rahm, and Bubba Watson rounded out the list and each received $3 million.
An individual's impact score was determined through five metrics: popularity in internet searches; unique news articles that include a player's name; a player's reach on social media; Nielsen Brand Exposure rating and their general awareness among broad U.S. population.
Results were certified by an independent auditor.
The PGA Tour said the bonus pool for the 2022 Player Impact Program will increase to $50 million total.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in TorontoEditing by Toby Davis)