McIlroy and Johnson win charity event in Palm Beach as golf makes a welcome

McIlroy and Johnson win charity event in Palm Beach as golf makes a welcome

It was probably the most widely viewed charity skins game ever, and it happened in Florida. On Sunday May 17, golf’s biggest stars descended on Seminole Golf Club in what was the first televised match of any type since the sporting world ground to a halt more than two months ago. 

It was something of a revelation to see Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff turning out in shorts and t-shirts and carrying their own clubs. As McIlroy said, it’s been nine weeks since the Players Championship in Sawgrass, but it feels a lot longer. The players, the fans, the broadcasters and the support businesses like sports betting providers will all see this as the first tentative step back towards a return to tournament play. 

Skins for charity 

A skins game is one in which the players compete for a cash prize on each hole. If the hole is halved, the money is carried forward to the next hole. In Sunday’s event, McIlroy and Johnson teamed up against Fowler and Wolff. The winnings would be divided between several charitable relief funds set up to help those in need during this year’s unprecedented circumstances. 

Before the game, there were concerns that the lack of spectators or even caddies would give the Seminole course a Blair Witch atmosphere, but those of a nervous disposition had no need for concern. The sun shone, the birds sang and the players treated golf-starved TV audiences around the world to an absolute treat. 

Competitive juices in full flow

The look of the event might have been informal, but it was clear from the outset that these top players were taking the game deadly seriously. McIlroy commented that it good to feel his “competitive juices flowing” after the enforced break. That competitive spirit was all too evident as things reached a dramatic conclusion. 

Having halved the final six holes, no quarter was being given from any side. By this time, the prize pot had swollen to $1.1 million, and so it all came down to a sudden-death tie breaker, for which the players returned to the 17th hole, a 121-yard Par 3. Now, it was all down to one shot, with the closest to the hole taking the prize.

Wolff went first, with his ball landing around 18 feet from the target. His partner found the bunker and was therefore out of the equation, and Johnson’s ball followed suit. That left everything in the hands of the current World Number One. As he has done so many times before, he came up with the goods when it mattered, his ball coming to rest approximately 13 feet from the hole. 

The net result was that McIlroy and Johnson won eleven skins between them, eight to McIlroy and three to Johnson. Rickie Fowler picked up all seven skins for his pair. It meant that McIlroy was the biggest single contributor with $1.25 million in an event that raised around $5 million in total when viewer donations were also added to the equation. 

What is next?

“Always leave them wanting more” is a common phrase in entertainment. For golf fans, Sunday’s game has only whetted the appetite. The PGA Tour will get back underway in June, and Rory McIlroy will be looking to cement his place at the top of the world rankings by participating in all three events. 

Official golfing hostilities are scheduled to resume on June 11 at the Charles Schwab Colonial Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. After that, McIlroy and the rest will decamp to Harbour Town, South Carolina for the RBC Heritage from June 18-21 and then to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship at the end of the month. 

Despite his Northern Irish nationality, McIlroy is based in the USA, so will not face quarantine issues – at least not while he remains on this side of the Atlantic. Other competitors arriving from overseas will have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. This and the fact that the games will take place without spectators and with strict distancing measures in place are a stark reminder that we are still some way from business as usual. For now, though, we are just glad to have some live sport to enjoy once again. 

 

 

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