Jordan Spieth was trending in a big way during his magical week at the Masters, when he went wire-to-wire and never let anyone closer than three shots of his lead over the final 54 holes. No one had a more vested interest in Spieth’s social media impact than his father.
This was more than just a family matter for Shawn Spieth. It’s his business.
About the time his son was leaving Texas to turn pro at the end of 2012, Shawn Spieth went to work on a social media project unique to sports. Spieth and Kyle Nelson, a software and social media entrepreneur, co-founded Stout Partners and developed the “MVPindex.”
MVPindex uses analytics to measure social media rankings in real-time for athletes, teams and sports leagues through algorithms developed for each sport. The data can be valuable for sports marketing officials to select brand ambassadors and maximize sponsorships.
“I’ve never been in the business of sports and always wanted to, and this was a great opportunity to do that,” said Spieth, who played college baseball at Lehigh and had been involved in software startups until launching MVPindex.
“The second reason was to help Jordan get started, try to do something to help him and others like him build a brand that would be bigger than on-the-field performance,” he said. “And then things lined up nicely in terms of timing.”
Spieth had arguably the most remarkable rookie season since Tiger Woods in 2013. With no status on any tour, he earned temporary membership on the PGA Tour, won the John Deere Classic, became the youngest American to play in the Presidents Cup at age 20 and finished at No. 7 in the FedEx Cup.
Now he’s the Masters champion and No. 2 in the world behind Rory McIlroy.
“It was just amazing,” Shawn Spieth said. “He was the top Twitter athlete that week. Usually soccer players own social (media) behind entertainers. Jordan was No. 1. That didn’t hurt his MVPindex.”
In the week after Spieth won the Masters, the MVPindex determined that he was mentioned 50,672 times — more than Tiger Woods, Kevin Durant and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) combined. For the overall PGA Tour index, Spieth currently is No. 5 behind McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Woods and Ian Poulter.
During his son’s rookie season, Spieth and Nelson collected some 20 million points of data used to measure social media reach, engagement and conversation tied to players or teams. They relied on the five most recognizable social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram YouTube and Google Plus — with plans to add more platforms.
MVPindex had Under Armour, sports agency Lagardere Unlimited and TaylorMade as clients when it launched a year ago in March. Jordan Spieth is represented by Lagardere and has a 10-year deal with Under Armour.
Spieth said the company now has more than 25 clients that range from media companies to agencies to athletes.
“What we’re building is a modern day Nielsen Ratings for social media,” Spieth said.
MATCH PLAY FIELD: One measure of the rise in American golfers is the field for the Match Play Championship, which takes the top 64 from the world ranking. Thirty Americans are eligible to compete next week at Harding Park, the most since there were 33 Americans in 2004 at La Costa.
At first glance, it would seem the one-time move to the first weekend in May would contribute to the increase. The Match Play Championship typically is at the end of February, right after the European Tour has some of its strongest fields during the Middle East swing.
So what would have happened if Match Play had been in its usual spot on the calendar? There still would have been 29 Americans in the field. Then again, that list would have included Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
Stricker would have been No. 59. Now he’s at No. 74. Woods would have been No. 62, and now he’s at No. 106.
Then again, that increase in top American players hasn’t translated into another match play event held every other year in September.
The world ranking after this week will be used to determine the seeding for the five-day event. Unlike previous years, the top four seeds are irrelevant because of the round-robin format involving 16 groups of four players.
The top 16 players will lead each group. A random draw will fill out each group based on players from Nos. 17-32, 33-48 and 49-64 in the ranking. Players have until Friday to commit to the World Golf Championship. Luke Donald has said he would not be playing because his brother is getting married that week. That means Miguel Angel Jimenez (65) would get in.
ANOTHER DEADLINE: Another week brings another deadline for a big tournament.
The 144-man field for The Players Championship will be mostly set after the Zurich Classic. All but eight players have secured spots to play for a $10 million prize fund on May 7-10 at the TPC Sawgrass. The rest are to be determined through the world ranking (unless someone not already eligible wins in New Orleans).
Ten players not already eligible are among the top 50 in the world ranking, although Danny Willett at No. 48 is not playing and is projected to fall out of the top 50. Marc Warren of Scotland (No. 53) is playing the Zurich Classic. Tommy Fleetwood of England (No. 55) is playing the Volvo China Open. They have a chance to play their way into the richest tournament in golf.
The 144 players is not a limit. It can go beyond that if the winners from the Zurich Classic or Match Play Championship are not eligible, or if more than eight players crack the top 50 in the world.
The FedEx Cup is the alternate list to fill the minimum 144 spots. Going into New Orleans, the top three on that list are Daniel Berger, Sean O’Hair and Justin Thomas.
DIVOTS: Jim Furyk now has 201 bogey-free rounds on the PGA Tour, the most of any player dating to 1983 and 22 more than anyone else (Jeff Sluman had 179). … The Hyundai Tournament of Champions will return to a Sunday finish in 2016. It had been scheduled for a Monday finish the last five years (except for 2013 when it was a 54-hole event that didn’t START until Monday because of high wind). … The British Open will have a new look with the grandstands at St. Andrews, along with a new color. The seats will be blue this year to match the color of the R&A’s logo.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Jim Furyk led the field in scrambling at the RBC Heritage. It was the 25th time he has led a PGA Tour event in scrambling, the most of any player dating to 1992. Tiger Woods is next on the list at 21.
FINAL WORD: “All you can do on this tour is build on it, wake up tomorrow and go try again next week.” — Kevin Kisner, winless in 90 starts on the PGA Tour, after his playoff loss to Jim Furyk in the RBC Heritage.
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