THE scenario had been suggested… but World No. 1 Rory McIlroy made it happen when he claimed a $1.1million prize for his chosen charity by winning the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match.
Golf South’s preview of Sunday’s multi-million dollar fundraiser featuring four of the biggest names on PGA Tour, suggested if the back nine of Seminole played ball, the £100,000 prize per hole could roll over to seven figures.
And, after McIlroy and playing partner Dustin Johnson had been matched by Rickie Fowler and Matt Wolff from the 13th, they could not be separated as they both parred the tough par three 17th – which was worth $200,000.
That saw the two pairs head to the 18th tee at the spectacular Seminole Golf Club, with the skin value for the last hole rising to $500,000 – meaning the pot for the final hole stood at $1.1million.
Fowler had produced three birdies in four holes from the ninth, to lift his team’s earnings to $1.45m stood on the 13th while his partner Wolff, picked up an extra $450,000 for winning the longest drive bonuses on the second and 14th holes.
McIlroy looked to be in the best position to make birdie on 18 after Fowler found the greenside trap by the tight, right pin and Wolff found the edge of the green left from the fairway bunker.
But when Rory’s putt held out the first televised golf in the US since the first round of The Players Championship at Sawgrass, on March 12, went into overtime as the Yanks would say.
And after Fowler missed the green, McIlroy had to get inside Wolff’s ball, which was 18 feet from the pin after his partner Johnson had fell off the front into sand.
Under the rules, the charity challenge went straight to a nearest the pin shoot out from 120 yards on the 17th.
And the winner of the 2019 Players Championship watched his ball hang on to the shelf left of the pin and come to rest just 13 feet from the pin.
Having seen players observe social distancing rules for three the best part of three hours, Europe’s talisman greeted his winning shot with a high five towards DJ… minus the contact, of course.
McIlroy and Johnson had not won a skin since the sixth hole as Wolff danced to Rickie’s tune when he birdied his third hole in four on the 11th, making up for the lack of cheering from the crowds, who were of course excluded.
But DJ and Rory walked away with the Lions share of the spoils for their chosen charity thanks to a final total of 11 skins against their opponents’ seven.
Final skin for $1.1m decided clash
THE final seven skins increased the winners’ total to $1.85 million which will go to the American Nurses Foundation.
Meanwhile Fowler and Wolff pocketed $1.15 million for the CDC Foundation.
The UnitedHealth Group donated the $3million for the skins contest, while TaylorMade stumped up the longest drive money.
Farmers Insurance put up extra cash for every birdie and eagle made.
Fowler, who is sponsored by the group, which promotes the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines every January, responded by making seven birdies to earn an extra $270,000.
McIlroy’s four birdies earned his good cause $250,000 while Wolff’s three were worth $135,000.
Johnson, who was a little rusty compared to the rest, made one worth $25,000.
The total raised for frontline health workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic was more than $5.5million.
The watching public who donated $600,000 via a text line in the USA – and corporate sponsors contributions from Mastercard, Rocket Mortgage and PGA Tour Superstore – added another $1million or so.
No. 1 Rory McIlroy admits feeling ‘pressure’
“It’s different,” was the verdict of World No. 1 Rory McIroy when asked about the pressure of playing for charity in the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins.
“When you’re not playing for your own money, but you’re playing for someone else and playing for another cause, it sort of starts to weigh on you a little bit.
“I’m really proud to be a part of an event to entertain the people at home on a Sunday afternoon but also to raise money for people who really need it.”
“It’s a huge effort from everyone involved,” added McIlroy, who had made a big par putt at 17 to carry the skins over to the last hole in regulation.
Wolff hit huge drives measuring 356 yards on the second and 368 yards on the 14th.
“I’m happy to raise a lot of money with the long drives,” said Wolff, who planned to auction off the rainbow-coloured Nike golf shoes he wore for the match.
The bonus cash will help Off Their Plate initiative – through World Central Kitchen – that helps both frontline healthcare workers and restaurant shift employees hit by the lockdown.
As well as giving golf starved TV fans several hours of entertainment, the fundraiser also whetted the appetite for when the PGA Tour returns next month with Charles Schwab Cup, at Colonial Club, in Texas
World No. 1 Rory said last week he plans to play the first three events on the new schedule.
Seminole shows off why it’s so good to watching millions
SEMINOLE boasts some famous members including Rory McIlroy’s dad Gerry, while NFL quarter-back legend Tom Brady, has joined the North Palm Beach club recently.
The Florida club has an annual pro-am competition which has been won by Northern Ireland’s four-time Major winner – and by Fowler – in the past.
It was the first time the Donald Ross-designed course at North Palm Beach had been seen on TV – in May 2021 it is due to host the Walker Cup.
Seminole is famous for its wide open fairways with sandy waste areas, that make it reminiscent of Pinehurst No. 2 – Ross’s most famous creation.
And even with a 10-15mph breeze, the effects of the Atlantic breezes on shot selection and making the upturned greens so hard to find, let alone putt on, Seminole gave an insight into why it is one of the most highly-regarded courses in the States.
Great Britain and Ireland have only won the Walker Cup three times on US soil in almost 100 years of playing the best American amateurs every other year.
Any GB&I player who is hoping to be picked – should the contest be able to go ahead in 12 months’ time – will have been the most interested spectators on this side of the pond.