Why it’s a milestone that Cameron Smith generated more Google searches than Tiger Woods during a seismic year in golf

The origins of Google were established in northern California at the famed Stanford University, in 1995. Larry Page, a computer scientist from Michigan, was considering Stanford for a postgraduate degree. One day during the American summer, he was shown around the campus by an already enrolled student, Sergey Brin, who was also a computer scientist. The pair realised, quite quickly, they had a lot in common and, within a year, they’d built a search engine called ‘Backrub’. Its aim was to rank the importance of individual websites and it was brilliant; almost as brilliant as the decision to rename the search engine ‘Google’ a short time later.

They created a search engine and tech company that would eventually become the epicentre of the modern world, but Brin and Page weren’t the only brilliant students walking around Stanford in 1995. Across campus, there was another prodigy biding his time at the world-leading university while choosing the right time to take on the world: Tiger Woods. Woods was in his second year at Stanford and had just returned to college after a summer in which in he’d won a second straight US Amateur title. Woods had also played in the first four Majors of his career, including a debut at the 1995 Masters where he was the low amateur at Augusta National.

Almost 28 years later, Google and Woods are ironically intertwined. In the US, 15-time Major winner Woods was the most Googled golfer last year, according to data the search engine provided to this publication in December. That’s despite playing just three official tournaments last year: the Masters, where he returned from injuries sustained in a single-car accident a year earlier to miraculously make the cut; the PGA, where he also made the cut, but withdrew injured; and the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, where he didn’t make the weekend. Woods proved once again last year that he doesn’t just move the needle; he is the needle. His Google metrics were literally the first criteria for winning the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program, a.k.a. the PIP, which rewards the leading 10 players who generated the most positive interest in the PGA Tour. Woods won the program’s $US15 million bonus. The first measurement to determine a player’s PIP score is “internet searches: the number of times a player’s name is searched using Google”. Woods also won the PIP in 2021. While some question a program which ranks a golfer No.1 despite hardly playing tournament golf anymore, many more would argue that it’s a miniscule repayment to an athlete who generated immeasurable money and exposure for a niche sport.

Woods’ success on the course and in search engines only highlights what a monumental achievement it was for world No.3 Cameron Smith to top the list of most Googled golfers by Australian users [see panel]. The experts at Google were kind enough to provide this column with specific Australian search results for 2022 and Smith came out on top, while Woods generated only 63.93 per cent of the search interest of the 29-year-old Brisbane boy. It’s not hard to see why; on the course, Smith was otherworldly. He won three PGA Tour events last year – the Tournament of Champions, the elite Players Championship and a maiden Major at the 150th Open at St Andrews. He also tied for third at the Masters, where he played in the final group with the eventual winner Scottie Scheffler. 

Many of Smith’s searches were also undoubtedly influenced by his much-publicised departure from the PGA Tour for the rival league, LIV Golf, which is controversially financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Smith won LIV’s Chicago event in his second start in September before his team finished second in the season-long championship in October. In November, he also won the DP World Tour-co-sanctioned Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland. 

 getty images: Patrick Smith

While some may understandably disagree with Smith’s decision to leave the PGA Tour, where his six career victories were establishing a legacy, Smith put himself and his country first. He loved playing on the PGA Tour, but another league came along that not only offered him a large, guaranteed-money contract and bigger tournament purses, but also a chance to spend up to three months a year in Australia due to a long offseason. Smith also joined knowing his profile would help bring one of LIV’s events Down Under. Months after Smith signed, LIV announced it would take one of its 14 events this year to Adelaide, in April. Whether you detest LIV’s source of funds or its 54-hole format, it’s still good for golf to have 48 players, many of whom are superstars like Smith, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, on our shores playing tournament golf.

Smith gave Australian golf an enormous shot in the arm in 2022. While that sounds like an anecdotal claim, one only needs to look at the enormous crowds he drew at both Royal Queensland – where he was pulled in more directions than Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, from fans wanting a picture with the mullet-wearing star and the shiny silver claret jug he won at the Open Championship – and in Melbourne at the Australian Open a week later.  Or at the amount of mainstream media coverage he brought to golf during our summer.

Thankfully, we do have unequivocal evidence to measure Smith’s impact on Australian golf last year, via Google. Information and news about him were more sought after than arguably the greatest golfer who has ever lived. We have a bona fide superstar on our hands, who also happens to be a down-to-earth bloke. It’s going to be exciting to see what Smith can achieve this year, both on the course and on the internet.

Most googled golfers by Australians in 2022

PlayerIndexed Search Interest
Cameron Smith100.00
Tiger Woods63.93
Rory McIlroy24.54
Paige Spiranac20.44
Scottie Scheffler11.64
Phill Mickelson9.90
Lydia Ko7.36
Bryson DeChambeau7.18
Dustin Johnson6.18
Justin Thomas5.49

Top searched golf-related terms in 2022

TermIndexed Search Interest
LIV Golf100.00
Golf scores70.66
Australian Open golf35.68
Golf Australia32.25
LIV Golf Leaderboard22.93
US Open golf19.56
PGA Tour15.57
Golf results10.04
World golf rankings9.44
Golf news8.51

Top questions on golf in 2022

1. What is liv golf?
2. What does liv golf stand for?
3. How many golf clubs allowed in bag?
4. Where is Augusta National Golf Course?
5. How to play golf?
6. How to hit a golf ball?
7. When was golf invented?
8. How to clean golf clubs?
9. What is a birdie in golf?
10. How to watch liv golf tour?