This is it. We reach the Top 10 of our 100 Most Influential People in Golf 2022, a brand-new ranking of the men and women who have made the biggest difference in the game in the last year.
Influence Noun; The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
According to the R&A, there are around 66.6 million golfers in the world – and every single one of them has, in some way, been influenced by people on this list – the first ranking of its kind.
Whether you’ve bought a dozen balls, a new driver, watched a clip on YouTube, shared a Tweet, liked an Instagram post or played a top course, the reach of the 100 people in this list is simply staggering.
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The 100 Most Influential People In Golf 2022: 10-1
10 RORY MCILROY
Four-time Major champion, current World No.1 and PGA Tour Player Advisory Council Chairman.
McIlroy is golf’s biggest superstar since Tiger. OK, so he hasn’t quite lived up to our lofty expectations (Jack Nicklaus once predicted Rory could win 15 or 20 Majors), but the Holywood lad hasn’t done too badly.
He has 30 wins across the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, four Major titles, and recently returned to World No.1 thanks to three victories in 2022, alongside top-10 finishes in all four Majors.
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He’s been named among the top three most marketable athletes in the world, awarded an MBE, had a computer game named after him, been crowned PGA Tour Player of the Year on three occasions (only Tiger has more), and spent more than 100 weeks as golf’s top dog
At a tumultuous time for golf, McIlroy has repeatedly made his feelings clear about LIV Golf and, in particular, its CEO Greg Norman. McIlroy celebrated his Canadian Open victory by claiming that his 21st PGA Tour win was “one more than someone else; that gave me a little bit of extra incentive…” in reference to Norman’s 20 PGA Tour titles.
That feud aside, McIlroy has shown maturity and reason in his views on LIV. “I don’t want a fractured game,” he said. “I never have. The game of golf is ripping itself apart right now and that’s no good for anyone. I’ve always said I think there is a time and a place where everyone that’s involved should sit down and try to work together.”
Given his influence on the PGA Tour and beyond, McIlroy could well play a pivotal role in finding a way for LIV Golf to exist in harmony, alongside golf’s traditional tours. If he can manage that and complete the career Grand Slam by finally getting his hands on that elusive Green Jacket, he will cement his position as one of the game’s true greats.
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9 SEAN MCMANUS
A sports media giant, now Chairman of CBS Sports in America
McManus is better known in the USA for his dealings with the NFL, NCAA and European football coverage, but his passion for golf also shines through in the network’s coverage. Their crown jewel has been The Masters for many years, but McManus beat off plenty of competition in 2020 to secure a nine-year deal to air around 19 PGA Tour and at least seven LPGA Tour events per season.
8 MIKE MCCARLEY
President of Golf for NBC Sports, so effectively Head of the Golf Channel
McCarley has been credited with the transformation and expansion of the Golf Channel over the last 10 years. During that time he has overseen a quadrupling of the workforce, too many technological advances to mention, and the launch of initiatives such as GolfNow – which has become a worldwide operation – and GolfPass in partnership with Rory.
He is set to play an even bigger role in the years to come as the co-founder of tech-based venture TMRW Sports, alongside Tiger and McIlroy. Together they are set to launch a series of Monday night matches, in association with the PGA Tour, that will begin in spring 2024.
7 ANDREW GEORGIOU
Officially, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Europe President and Managing Director, but you can call him the President of Sports at Discovery
Georgiou is likely to be the highest-placed entry on this list whose name and face you don’t recognise, but his influence on your enjoyment of the game is vast. In 2018, US media giant Discovery signed a $2 billion, 12-year deal for worldwide broadcast rights to all PGA Tour golf tournaments until 2030, ending a deal Sky Sports had held since 2010.
Discovery’s deal made them the ‘strategic partner’ of the PGA Tour and gave them multi-platform live rights to all PGA Tour media properties. In plain English, it bought them around 2,000 hours of content per year, giving them access to the six tours operating under the PGA Tour umbrella. That means around 150 tournaments annually, The Players Championship, the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Presidents Cup, plus 40 DP World Tour events per year. That’s a lot of golf.
The deal covers 21 markets outside of the US, including Australia, South Korea, Canada and the UK, giving Discovery vast influence over when, where and how so many of the game’s top tier events are watched. Crucially, the deal also allowed Discovery to auction coverage on a territory-by-territory basis. So, when, last June, Sky Sports announced it had signed a new multi-year extension with Warner Bros Discovery to show a minimum of 36 PGA Tour events per year, the signature on the contract read ‘Andrew Georgiou’.
He is one of the most important people in your life. Even if you don’t recognise his name or face.
6 CHIP BREWER
President and CEO of Topgolf Callaway Brands Corp
Back in August, a press release dropped about one of golf’s most famous brands changing its name. It didn’t elicit many headlines for golfers; but it was very big news for the stock market.
Callaway – the golf equipment company founded with a driver – was changing its name to Topgolf Callaway Brands Corp. The company’s ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange even changed from ELY to MODG to “reflect the company’s leadership position in the Modern Golf ecosystem.”
It meant the golf equipment company founded by Ely Callaway in 1992 was now an entertainment company. And a tech company. And a clothing company. And a lifestyle brand. The man who’s led this transformation is Chip Brewer; a Texan who used to head up Adams before taking over at Callaway in 2012.
Under his watch, Callaway’s core club and ball business has gone from strength to strength. Between April and June 2022, they made $452 million in revenue, up 13% year-on-year. Its ‘active lifestyle’ segment – made up of TravisMathew, OGIO, Jack Wolfskin, Callaway Apparel and accessory brands – also increased 40% to record sales of $260 million, while Topgolf’s revenue shot up by 24 percent to $404 million in the same period.
“Our business has been really good for the last several years,” says Brewer. “We were a turnaround in 2012, we grew the business and have shown we’re pretty good operators.
“We have a strong brand position. We believe we are No.1 in the club market and the golf ball business has been growing to double-digits. The use of AI will set the stage for further changes and innovations as we apply it to different parts of our product range. AI is like CAD (computer assisted design): it’s a fundamental way of designing a product. If you don’t do that going forwards, you’re not going to be in the game.”
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5 JAY MONAHAN
The Dark Knight in the PGA Tour’s battle with LIV Golf
Jay Monahan has never faced a more tumultuous time as the head of the PGA Tour. He’s had his competency – or apparent lack of – questioned by Phil Mickelson and others. He’s been dragged into legal battles, rushed through mandates, and faced awkward questions about how much money he and the PGA Tour are sitting on after unveiling a $96 million cash injection for this season.
For now, he remains the central figure in golf’s ongoing soap opera, but his standing is far weaker than it was in 2019 when he was widely praised for securing a 70 percent increase on the Tour’s previous media rights deal.
He does deserve credit for how he led the Tour through the pandemic, not to mention how he convinced the DP World Tour to side with them rather than the Saudis. But people in golf have short memories and the consensus on the ground is that Monahan acted too late to stop Greg Norman from poaching the Tour’s top talent.
Ultimately, it took two of the PGA Tour’s most loyal stars, Tiger and Rory, to form a united front and push through changes to the Tour’s structure to fend off another mass exodus of players. That Monahan was initially kept out of those discussions is perhaps indicative of how fragmented the Tour is right now.
He can at least cling to the notion that the PGA Tour still holds all the major cards – literally and figuratively – but the impending legal battle with LIV Golf is likely to have big repercussions for the future of golf and the Tour itself.
Monahan just needs to hope he comes out on the winning side, otherwise he may yet find himself cast as collateral damage.
4 MIKE WHAN
CEO of the USGA and former Commissioner of the LPGA Tour
“Mike is a proven, successful and transformative leader, not only in the golf industry but throughout his entire career”. Those were the words of USGA President, Stu Francis, as he confirmed the appointment of Whan as the successor to Mike Davis at the helm of arguably the most powerful golf authority in the world.
The LPGA had been the chief beneficiary of Whan’s talent for 11 years, where he forged his reputation for success and transformation. When he joined, the Tour was struggling to establish the worldwide presence required to generate investment and keep the talent pool ticking over. But under his leadership, women’s golf in all parts of the globe benefitted. Whan brokered deals with his counterparts in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia, which thrust the LPGA into genuine ‘global brand’ status and ensured significant increases in the number of tournaments, prize money, television coverage and overall membership.
When Whan was finally lured to the USGA 11 years later, the number of registered LPGA pros was almost 50 percent higher than when he took over. LPGA Player President, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, said: “Mike rebuilt the LPGA Tour, reimagined its future, and he brought new events, new sponsors and a new value proposition around diversity and inclusion to the LPGA. He has that rare ability to get people of all ages and backgrounds excited and on board with his vision.”
But Whan’s record for change did not sit well with some on the USGA committee, his appointment coinciding with a raft of resignations, though he won the players over when he vowed to avoid interfering with course set-ups for the USGA’s 14 national championships, a subject that haunted Davis for much of his tenure. And it didn’t take long for Whan to stamp his authority, securing a title-sponsor deal with ProMedica for the US Women’s Open which effectively doubled the prize fund to $10 million.
Whan’s outlook is to “advance, rather than preserve”, qualities that should ensure a prosperous future for the game at every level.
“What does the USGA actually do?” he was once asked. His answer? “Unify, Showcase, Govern, Advance”.
3 GREG NORMAN
LIV Golf’s Commissioner, a man who has taken a sledgehammer to the game’s current ecosystem
No one has created more headlines this year than Greg Norman – just read our exclusive interview with LIV’s CEO and you’ll see why! He’s been waiting a long time to establish a world tour, almost 30 years in fact, and has seemingly found the perfect partners in the Saudis. He is revelling in his role as the face of LIV Golf, waging a war against the PGA Tour and partnering with the Asian Tour and MENA Tour to upset the status quo.
Like Rory, we didn’t think LIV would ever get off the ground and yet Norman proved us all wrong, poaching 14 Major winners – including the European Ryder Cup captain – and delivering on his promise to make everyone sit up and take notice. Between Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith, his recruitment push has exceeded $650 million – and it’s not over yet. He is now plotting to sign seven of the world’s top 20 players ahead of an expanded 14-tournament league next season.
Of course, it’s easy to criticise his involvement in Saudi’s sportwashing campaign as morally unpalatable, but for the purpose of this list we cannot overlook all the good he has done in the game as well. He’s supported a raft of charities, established the QBE Shootout on the PGA Tour, and built a $400 million empire since leaving behind a career which delivered two Claret Jugs and 88 professional victories worldwide. That’s all in the past, of course, but Norman’s portfolio boasts a dozen brands, including a golf course design business and an apparel line bearing his iconic shark logo.
Ultimately, his entire legacy is likely to hinge on the success of LIV Golf and whether it can find a place to exist alongside or instead of more established Tours. For the time being, at least, he has positioned himself as golf’s chief antagonist and a major thorn in the sides of Jay Monahan and Keith Pelley.
2 MARTIN SLUMBERS
Chief Executive of the R&A and Secretary of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, aka golf’s most powerful man in a suit
Brighton-born, former Deutsche Bank executive Slumbers took over from Peter Dawson as Chairman of the R&A in 2015. Apart from the US and Mexico, the R&A governs golf worldwide, which means they and Slumbers are responsible for more than 41 million golfers in 144 countries with the consent of 159 organisations from amateur and professional golf, plus the running of 28 championships that range from the Boys’ and Girls’ Amateur Championships, right up to The Open Championship.
Almost every aspect of the game, at every level, is presided over by Slumbers. The rules, the changes to your handicap and the pace of play are all within his remit. Likewise, the distribution of world ranking points (as a member of the board for the Official World Golf Ranking), the distance debate and the ongoing technology wars with manufacturers. Little occurs in golf without Slumbers having significant influence. Of course, this entry is more about the position than the specific person, but Slumbers has impressed with the quiet efficiency with which he’s assumed the role.
One of his first big challenges came in 2016, when Muirfield voted against admitting women to the club. Slumbers removed the Honourable Company from The Open rota – then reinstated it when the club had a rethink. Slumbers’ decisive action was illustrative of the direction in which he is steering the R&A and the game as a whole: a refusal to move with the times and focus on the future is at odds with his vision. The 62-year-old has one eye on the past but both fixed firmly on the game’s future.
This was made clear with the publication of a 40-page R&A blueprint for ensuring the game thrives over the next 50 years. “We need to attract more women and children into golf via grassroots, including embracing short and less traditional forms of the game,” he says. “The traditions are important, but we need to look at the wider ecosystem… to broaden the game.” Slumbers by name, then, but tireless by nature, as the role dictates.
1 TIGER WOODS
An icon and inspiration to millions of golfers, young and old
Tiger Woods is more than just a great golfer. He is golf’s greatest ambassador. No one has had a greater impact on your game or the game since he burst onto the scene all those years ago.
He is the PGA Tour. He turned golfers into athletes. He gave Nike the most iconic moment in sports history. He forced the greatest institutions to ‘Tiger-proof’ their golf courses. He broke down barriers by becoming the first African-American to win the Masters. We could go on and on, but above all else, he made golf cool again. He is the single biggest reason why the Saudis want to invest in golf and why they were reportedly prepared to offer in the region of $800 million to get him to defect.
At The 150th Open, people were hanging off fences just to catch a glimpse of the 46-year-old walking up the 18th on the Old Course. The Tiger roar is still unlike anything you will ever hear. And when he speaks, people listen. It would be a stretch to suggest that he saved the PGA Tour, but he stopped other players from leaving by hosting an intervention and presenting a united front.
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He remains a flawed genius. The greats often are. But he has transformed golf for his own generation and the generations to follow. Among his many success stories include the TW Foundation, which has reached over two million students and supported more than 260 college scholars through internships and financial support. He has lent his name to various tournaments and junior programmes, built a fledgling course design business, partnered with TaylorMade and PopStroke, to name just two, and delivered 85 TGR Live charity events, raising $113 million for charitable causes.
He was rewarded earlier this year with a long overdue induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, yet another accolade to go with his 15 Major titles and 107 worldwide wins. He’s still searching for a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour victory to move him ahead of Sam Snead on the all-time list, but we wouldn’t rule it out. He’s done it before on one leg.
Following his untimely injury last year, he’s become the face and Director of the 2K Sports’ golf video game franchise and broadened his empire by co-founding TMRW Sports with Rory McIlroy, which is bringing a virtual golf league called TGL to Monday nights in 2024 to shake up the sport again. An incredible array of celebrities – including Justin Timberlake, Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton and Steph Curry – have already bought into the venture, which shows what kind of pull Tiger still has.
His commitment to leaving golf and sport in a better place than he found it is commendable and befitting of his status as the most influential person on our list. He remains golf’s greatest needle mover, and you don’t need the Player Impact Program to tell you that.
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