Ahead of the 2023 Masters, we analysed social media data to find out how Netflix documentary Full Swing affected the popularity of PGA Tour and LIV golfers.
The Masters is one of the most revered events in all of sports, but it’s fair to say the 2023 edition will carry more weight than ever.
This will be the first visit to Augusta since the start of the civil war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, an ongoing dispute that has engulfed the game of golf and changed the sport forever.
The four majors are the only tournaments in which PGA and LIV players can both feature, and the bad blood that has developed between the two groups should add some extra needle to proceedings in Georgia – where Rory McIlroy is the favourite in the golf betting.
One of the beneficiaries of the conflict has been Netflix, who happened to be filming the first season of their golf documentary, Full Swing, when players began to defect to LIV during the 2022 season.
What was supposed to be a show about the ups and downs of life on the PGA Tour turned into a fly-on-the-wall look at players wrestling with the biggest shake-up in the sport’s history.
Featured in the documentary are players from both sides of the divide – those who chose to stay with the PGA Tour, and those who jumped ship to LIV.
And viewers of the show, whether they’re experienced golf fans or new to the sport, have been afforded a unique perspective on the players and the decision that each has had to make.
Now, using social media listening tool Linkfluence, we can work out how Full Swing affected both the profile and the popularity of the players involved.
Who came out looking good? Whose reputation took a hit? Let’s find out.
How did Full Swing affect players’ profiles?
The first thing to look at is the number of social media posts about each player, both before and after the release of Full Swing.
By analysing social media data from the 45 days before the release of the show, and the 45 days following, we can see how Full Swing has affected the profile of each player.
The first thing that sticks out from the data is that there is one player whose profile increased significantly more than any other: Justin Thomas.
Thomas plays a starring role in the opening episode of Full Swing, which focuses on his friendship with Jordan Spieth and his journey to winning the 2022 USPGA Championship.
The two-time major champion was talked about just 3,244 times in the period before Full Swing, which rose to 18,475 following its release. That’s an increase of 473%.
Another who saw a big uptick in posts after Full Swing is Cameron Young, who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2022, finishing third at the USPGA and second at The Open.
Posts about Young increased by 171% following his appearance in Full Swing.
Third on the list is world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who will be gunning for his second straight green jacket at The Masters.
Social media posts about Scheffler increased by 168% after Full Swing.
Interestingly, Thomas, Young and Scheffler all remain PGA Tour players, having so far rejected any approaches from LIV Golf.
The LIV player with the biggest jump in posts was Dustin Johnson, who saw a 127% increase in social media posts after Full Swing.
Johnson is one of the most high-profile players to jump ship to LIV, and became the inaugural individual champion in its first season.
Other players to see an increase in posts following their appearance in Full Swing are Jordan Spieth (+69%), Rickie Fowler (+67%), Mito Pereira (+59%), Brooks Koepka (+38%), and Matt Fitzpatrick (+34%).
Those who saw their social media profile decrease despite their appearance in the show are Sahith Theegala (-67%), Ian Poulter (-64%), Collin Morikawa (-45%), Tony Finau (-24%), Joel Dahmen (-13%) and Rory McIlroy (-4%).
How did Full Swing affect players’ popularity?
More importantly, we can also use social media data to analyse how Full Swing affected player popularity.
With Linkfluence’s social listening tool, we are able to break down conversations about each player by sentiment, showing the percentage of posts which are positive and negative.
Here are the players ranked in terms of positive sentiment in the 45 days following the release of Full Swing:
Joel Dahmen 33.18%
Tony Finau 27.06%
Scottie Scheffler 24.93%
Sahith Theegala 23.47%
Rickie Fowler 21.68%
Matt Fitzpatrick 21.13%
Ian Poulter 20.96%
Collin Morikawa 19.59%
Jordan Spieth 19.04%
Cameron Young 18.88%
Brooks Koepka 18.49%
Rory McIlroy 17.65%
Dustin Johnson 16.81%
Justin Thomas 15.33%
Mito Pereira 15.24%
More important, though, is how their appearance in the show affected their popularity. To do this, we can compare positive sentiment from before and after Full Swing.
This time, it is a LIV player who leads the list – Mito Pereira, despite have the least positive sentiment overall, saw a 28% increase after featuring on Full Swing.
Unfortunately for the upstart tour, that’s where the good news ends – no other player currently with LIV saw their popularity increase.
Scheffler is next on the list, with the world No. 1 seeing positive sentiment increase by 18% after Full Swing.
Dahmen, who was widely considered one of the stars of Full Swing after featuring heavily in the fourth episode, was another big winner, seeing positive sentiment around him go up by 16%.
McIlroy, a four-time major winner and the most outspoken opponent to LIV, also saw his popularity increase by 16% in the period following Full Swing.
Thomas (+13%), Finau (+12%), Young (+10%) and Fitzpatrick also saw an increase in positive sentiment.
At the other end of the spectrum, Koepka was the most negatively affected by Full Swing, with positive sentiment dropping by 58%.
Theegala also saw a big drop of 31%, while Johnson (-14%), Morikawa (-11%), Spieth (-9%), Poulter (-8%) and Fowler (-4%) also saw decreases.
The other thing to consider here is negative sentiment.
Here are the players ranked in order for negative sentiment in the 45 days after Full Swing:
Justin Thomas 31.7%
Brooks Koepka 23.78%
Ian Poulter 19.49%
Rory McIlroy 15.37%
Jordan Spieth 14.68%
Mito Pereira 14.39%
Dustin Johnson 14.04%
Matt Fitzpatrick 12.43%
Collin Morikawa 11.00%
Joel Dahmen 10.92%
Cameron Young 10.73%
Tony Finau 9.58%
Sahith Theegala 8.88%
Scottie Scheffler 8.67%
Rickie Fowler 8.28%
Interestingly, just three players saw negative sentiment about them on social media decrease after Full Swing – Scheffler (-28%), Fowler (-19%) and Morikawa (-7%).
Everyone else saw an increase in negative sentiment, with Thomas topping the list at an increase of 71%.
Young (+56%), Koepka (+52%), Fitzpatrick (+49%) and Poulter (+46%) also saw significant increases in negative sentiment.
The others to see an increase were Pereira (+38%), McIlroy (+36%), Theegala (+25%), Dahmen (+21%), Johnson (+18%) and Finau (+13%).
PGA vs LIV
So, how do the tours stack up against each other when it comes to social media?
Unfortunately for LIV, PGA Tour players remain both the most talked about and the most popular players around.
Since the release of Full Swing, seven PGA Tour players – Thomas, Spieth, Scheffler, McIlroy, Morikawa and Finau – have featured in more social posts than any LIV player.
Six PGA Tour players – Dahmen, Finau, Scheffler, Theegala, Fowler and Fitzpatrick – received more positive sentiment than any LIV player on social media.
Negative sentiment paints a slightly less clear picture, with PGA Tour players making up three of the top five, although all LIV players rank among the top seven players with the most negative sentiment.
Overall, it’s a pretty comprehensive victory for the PGA Tour, but what really matters is what happens out on the course.
Who will strike the first blow of 2023 at Augusta?