Golf’s first big event of the post-coronavirus era took place last weekend in what looks to be a smashing success. A skins game of best ball saw the team of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson overcome a spirited challenge from Oklahoma State alum Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff. The event provided plenty of action for a good cause and served as a dry run for the Charles Schwab Challenge taking place June 11-14. McIlroy and Johnson raised $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation while Fowler and Wolff ended up earning $1.15 million for the CDC foundation. Including extra money raised from viewers and birdies, the event raised over $5.5 million for COVID-19 relief.
Social Distancing Success
The biggest conclusion is that golf is a game uniquely poised to thrive during the era of social distancing. The players remained diligently apart and refrained from group celebrations, but other than the restrained atmosphere the event felt normal. Other changes such as the absence of caddies and the use of an official to move the flagstaff all went on without a hitch without detracting from the action. Purists had more to complain about the decision to allow golfers to play in shorts than any disruption in play. That bodes well for when the PGA Tour start staging much bigger events in June.
Matthew Wolff is One to Watch
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Matthew Wolff broke onto the scene with a win at the 2019 3M Championship at the age of 20. He is definitely still rough and he looked it, as the golfer is just 1 year removed from NCAA golf. However, despite his questionable facial hair, Wolff’s unique swing proved effective by outdriving his more illustrative peers. Wolff almost won it on the tiebreaker hole but couldn’t keep up with McIlroy. It was far from perfect, with Wolff often lacking finesse in his short game, but he showed more than enough to earn the title of one of golf’s most hyped youngsters.
Seminole Still Tricky for Rusty Pros
There was much chat before the event on whether the Donald Ross designed Seminole Golf Club would provide enough challenge for 4 professional golfers. The 90+ year old course more than delivered on that front, proving that length isn’t everything. In particular, the greens seemed a particular challenge to the players. The player who played best on the day was arguably Rickie Fowler, whose 7 birdies were the best of the group.
McIlroy Still the Best
Despite the rust, the Northern Irishman showed why he’s still the deserving world number 1. The tournament came down to a $1.1 million dollar closest to the pin contest after the players tied the final hole. McIlroy hit just inside of Wolff’s drive to claim the money and the win, but it was his consistent play that stuck him above the pack. With 3 more weeks to break off the rust, the PGA Tour should be ready for a refreshed McIlroy looking to defend his FedExCup title.