Rory McIlroy delivered the money shot Sunday as live golf returned to television for a Skins game that revealed plenty of rust and raised more than US$5-million for COVID-19 relief funds.
McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, who had not won a skin since the sixth hole, had a chance to win the final six skins worth US$1.1-million on the final hole at Seminole in the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition. Both missed and they returned to the par-three 17th for a closest-to-the-pin contest.
From a forward tee at 120 yards, Matthew Wolff was 18 feet below the hole. His partner, Rickie Fowler, missed the green. Johnson found a bunker. Down to the last shot, McIlroy barely stayed on the shelf left of the pin, measured at 13 feet.
“Air five,” McIlroy said, alluding to the physical distancing in place at Juno Beach, Fla.
The final carryover gave McIlroy and Johnson US$1.85-million for the American Nurses Foundation. Fowler, who made seven birdies, and Wolff made US$1.15-million for the CDC Foundation.
“I’m proud to be part of an event to entertain people at home on a Sunday afternoon and to raise money for people who need it,” McIlroy said as he played the 18th hole.
Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian with big game and plenty of swagger, earned US$450,000 toward relief funds by having the longest drives on two par fives – 356 yards on No. 2 and 368 yards on No. 14.
Fowler’s seven birdies were worth US$270,000 in a separate fund from Farmers Insurance, while McIlroy made four birdies worth US$150,000 and Wolff had three birdies for US$135,000. Johnson, who showed the most rust, had one birdie for US$25,000.
PGA Tour Charities allowed for online donations during the telecast, raising more than US$1-million. The donations will continue until Tuesday. When the exhibition ended, more than US$5.5-million had been pledged, starting with the US$3-million guarantee from UnitedHeath Group.
Players carried their own bags.
Television had a skeleton crew on the grounds – the play by play and analysts were 322 kilometres away in St. Augustine, Fla., while host Mike Tirico was at his home office in Michigan. The match went more than four hours, primarily because players were at times held in place to give the six TV cameras time to get in position on the next hole.
Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice-president of of rules and competition, was the only one to handle the flagstick. Bunkers didn’t need to be raked because they were the only match on the course, which closed for the summer last week.
“It was an awesome day,” McIlroy said. “It was nice to get back on the golf course and get back to some sort of normalcy.”
The players wore microphones, although the banter was limited and ended early.