Juno Beach, F Florida, US, May 17: Rory McIlroy eked out a narrow win for his two-man team – Dustin Johnson being his partner – with a ‘closest-to-the-pin’ effort to 13 feet as his rival Matt Wolff – partnering Rickie Fowler – landed 18 feet two inches from the pin in Golf’s Made for TV return in the TaylorMade Driving Relief Fund.
The team of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson claimed victory at Seminole Golf Club by collecting 11 skins for a total of $1.85 million that will be donated to the American Nurses Foundation, while the team of Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff won seven skins for $1.15 million that will be donated to the CDC Foundation.
McIlroy and Johnson won five of the first six holes and led 5-1, but then Fowler and Wolff surged ahead with six Skins for a 7-5 lead as they won with birdies on ninth, 11thand 12th. The last six holes were halved.
That brought in the sudden-death as World No.1 McIlroy took on Wolff in the ‘Closest-to-the-Pin’ play-off. McIlroy won that for 11-7 win and took $ 1.85 million dollars for his team’s charities, while Fowler and Wolff gave their charities $ 1.15 million.
McIlroy said, “I didn’t know whether to tell it to get up, get going, stay long or stay short.”
“Matt hit a decent shot in. It’s only 120 yards, but it’s a tough shot, so to see it land on the green and stay there (was nice). These Seminole greens, the ball can do funny things when you think it’s in a good spot.”
“I’m really happy,” he added. “It was an awesome day playing with D.J., Matt and Rickie, playing for a great cause. It’s been awesome, and it was nice to get back on the golf course and get back to some sort of normalcy.”
Wolff said, “I care so much and I’m trying to raise so much money, so I was a little nervous starting off the day.”
Wolff, who also won both long drive competitions on Nos. 2 and 14, then settled down well. “But I settled down and I’m happy to raise a lot of money with the long drives.”
“It’s a lot of fun to get out here and do something for charity,” Johnson said. “It feels good to get back out on the golf course and have a little competition. I think that hopefully if everything goes well we can start the Tour here in three or four weeks. I know we’re all looking forward to getting back and playing some golf.”
Golf’s return continues next Sunday at Medalist Golf Club in South Florida when Tiger Woods takes on Phil Mickelson in The Match: Champions for Charity, alongside National Football League quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The event will also benefit COVID-19 relief efforts.
The PGA TOUR, meanwhile, returns in less than a month with the Charles Schwab Challenge, set for June 11-14 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
How the money was won and donated
Of the $3 million pledged by UnitedHealth Group, each team began with $500,000 and played for the sum of the remaining $2 million during the match. Both teams tied the final six holes, meaning the remaining six skins were decided by a 120-yard closest-to-the-pin competition on the par-3 17th hole, which was won by McIlroy (13 feet). Wolff’s shot landed 18 feet, 2 inches from the hole.
Farmers Insurance added a $1 million pledge through a birdies-and-eagle pool to benefit Off Their Plate, a fundraising initiative through World Central Kitchen that helps both frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers and impacted restaurant shift employees. Fowler led all players with seven birdies during the match.
Following the first hole of the competition, TaylorMade announced a pledge of $350,000 through two TaylorMade Long Drive Holes. During the broadcast of the competition, PGA TOUR Superstore announced an additional $100,000 as part of the long drive at the 14th hole. The $450,000 total is included in the PGA TOUR Charities’ GoFundMe.
- No. 2 – $100,000 – Matthew Wolff, 356 yards
- No. 14 – $350,000 – Matthew Wolff, 368 yards
There were also donations from the people, in the run-up and even as the event was being held. All that pushed the total to well over $ 5.5 million in funds to fight Covid.
Golf with a difference
This was golf with a difference, as the millionaire golfers carried their own bags and often waited for the TV crew to reach the next hole before teeing off.
There were no ‘High Fives’ but ‘Air Fives’ as McIlroy called it. Television, which played a big role bringing the ‘re-emergence’ of live golf on Sunday, had a skeletal staff, as compared to other events, but this was also one four-ball.
While the event was played at Seminole, the TV commentators and analysts were in St. Augustine, some 200 miles away. The TV host, Mike Tirico was at home in Michigan.
The flag stick was handled solely by Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition. The bunkers were not raked as there was just o.ne group playing.