In January 2015, I conducted a small survey to figure out who the biggest names in American sports were. At the time, it was done to show the impact that Derek Jeter had on baseball in his last season and how the Yankees, sports media, and brands had done a great job of celebrating him. On top of that, it was to show how baseball might have an issue filling the void in having a superstar.
This year, I wanted to do the same thing with no specific mission in mind. Who are the biggest names in major American sports? Who are the athletes that brands can use as endorsers for products? Who are the stars that the public and the media gravitate to?
This focuses on golf and the PGA Tour. Despite the lack of success recently, does Tiger Woods’ legacy put him up top? Or do young stars like Spieth or McIlroy stick out more than him?
THE BIGGEST NAMES IN GOLF
Number 6: Rickie Fowler
- Achievements: 3 PGA Tour Wins, 2 second-place finishes in majors, 5th in the world
- Endorsements: Puma, Titlist, Rolex
The face of Puma in golf, Rickie Fowler is early into his career and is getting closer and closer to major titles. Having won three times throughout his career and finishing second twice in majors, he will be a force in American golf for years to come.
Number 5: Jack Nicklaus
- Achievements: 73 PGA Tour wins, 18 major championship wins, World Golf Hall of Fame inductee
One of the greatest to ever do it, The Golden Bear has won more major championships than any other golfer ever. The effects of his play are still felt today in popular culture, from his golf courses hosting tournaments to many young stars being compared to him. His major mark will be hard to match.
Number 4: Phil Mickelson
- Achievements: 42 PGA Tour wins, 5 major championship wins. 2nd all-time in money earnings
- Endorsements: KPMG, Callaway, Barclays
Mickelson has played second fiddle to players like Tiger Woods for large portions of his career. A very popular player in golf, Phil is nearing the tail end of his career and has not won any tournaments as of late. However, he is still a major draw on tour and will still be for as long as he plays.
Number 3: Rory McIlroy
- Achievements: 11 PGA Tour wins, 4 major championship wins, 2nd in the world
- Endorsements: Nike, EA Sports, Omega
One of the best European golfers, McIlroy’s consistency and success in major tournaments makes him an exciting draw and a very popular golfer. With him being young in his career as well, if he keeps winning, TV channels will surely share how he does regularly. Not to mention, he’s EA Sports’ choice to be the face of their newest video games.
Number 2: Jordan Spieth
- Achievements: 7 PGA Tour wins, 2 major championship wins, 1st in the world
- Endorsements: Under Armour, Coca-Cola, AT&T
In 2015, Speith was the best in golf, becoming the youngest golfer to win the Masters and the US Open and finishing #1 in the world. He captivated fans along the way, and Under Armour used him across their major marketing campaigns to attract both casual and hardcore golf fans. Look for him to only grow more popular as he continues to participate in majors.
Number 1: Tiger Woods
- Achievements: 79 PGA Tour wins, 14 major championship wins, 1st all-time in money earnings
- Endorsements: Nike, Rolex, Upper Deck
A dominant force in golf for the entire 21st century, Tiger Woods started his career as high as it could possibly go. Injuries have started to take toll and his reputation is not nearly as mighty as it once was, but he still captivates audience and is surely featured week over week when featured in weekly tournaments. With his own line of gear and his large part of Nike’s golf promotion, he’ll still be remembered long after his career is over.
With golf being an individual sport, the stars are easy to point out. Success at major tournaments with a large TV audience is important to determining a golfer’s popularity.
Despite stars like Woods and Mickelson being past their prime, golf has their next stars in the wings with Spieth, McIlroy, and Fowler.