The TaylorMade Driving Relief Skins Game tees off on Sunday, bringing actual, live golf back to our lives. Sure, it’s no substitute for the Masters, or the PGA Championship that was supposed to be taking place this week, but at least it’s something. Bonus: You can bet on it! Here’s all you need to know heading into the weekend.
Date: Sunday, May 17
Time/TV: 2 p.m. ET, NBC
Players: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Matthew Wolff
Location: Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, Florida
Johnson and McIlroy will challenge Fowler and Wolff for a $3 million skins purse, contributed by UnitedHealth Group, all of which will be split between CDC Foundation and American Nurses Foundation, all of which will go to the American Nurses Foundation and the CDC Foundation for COVID-19 relief efforts. Farmers Insurance is putting up another $1 million for a birdie/eagle pool destined for Off Their Plate, an organization providing meals to healthcare workers.
As you’d expect in These Uncertain Times, there will be multiple safety measures in place to protect everyone involved. Players and production crew will be tested, and no fans will be in attendance. Mike Tirico, Paul Azinger and Rich Lerner will be leading the coverage from offsite, while Steve Sands, Gary Koch and Jerry Foltz will be on the grounds at Seminole. The players will carry their own bags, and they’ll be putting at cups specially designed to prevent the spread of infection.
Both teams begin with $500,000 on their ledger, and then they’ll see who takes whose money. The first six holes are worth $50,000 apiece, the next 10 are $100,000 each, the 17th will be $200,000 and the 18th is a cool $500,000. The format is best ball, and ties carry over to the next hole. There’s more money on the line, too: $25,000 for a birdie, $50,000 for an eagle and $150,000 for an albatross or hole-in-one.
You know McIlroy, the current world no. 1, and Johnson, a former no. 1. Between them, they own five majors and 38 PGA Tour wins. Fowler has five Tour wins, and like Wolff, is a former Oklahoma State All-American. Wolff, at age 21 the youngest of the crew, has “only” one win, but has the game to make this match competitive.
Conveniently enough, all four are TaylorMade members, and TaylorMade is the named sponsor of this whole deal. Funny how that works out.
Seminole doesn’t have much of a national reputation, and that’s by design. An ultra-exclusive private club, it doesn’t host majors or PGA Tour stops. It’s there for its members, and until this week, nothing more. Tucked up against the Atlantic Ocean, it currently ranks 12th on Golf Digest’s annual ranking of the 100 best courses in America, and this weekend, we’ll get to see why.
The course’s proximity to the ocean means the wind is a factor on nearly every shot. Weather for the weekend is forecast at cloudy, mid-80s, with a 10-mph wind … so precision will be important off the tee.
Once you’ve dealt with the wind, you have to face the challenge of the greens, which are Augusta-esque in their devilish slickness. The course has multiple elevation changes, unusual for Florida, and with no rough around the greens, there will be balls sliding right off the surface and into the many adjacent bunkers. Shotmaking will be a priority.
Take a quick look at this matchup, and you’d think it’ll be a blowout for the McIlroy/Johnson side. But the lines aren’t quite that far apart, and a PGA Tour breakdown of the four players since Wolff turned pro shows why. Statistically speaking, the four are competitive on the course, if not on their Wikipedia pages.
Off the tee, Rory and DJ have a slight edge. But McIlroy and Johnson are decidedly weaker than Wolff and Fowler on the green, and combined with the treacherous greens, that could help tip the balance toward the OSU crew’s way on several holes.
Oddsmakers are reflecting this growing awareness that maybe this won’t be quite such a blowout; the line has narrowed somewhat over the course of the week. Per BetMGM, McIlroy and Johnson are -200 to win (bet $10 to win $5), while Fowler and Wolff are +150 (bet $10 to win $15). Fowler and Wolff are at +6600 to make an ace, while McIlroy and DJ sit at +8000; both are down from +10,000 earlier in the week. (For the complete lines, go here.)
This would have been the Sunday of the PGA Championship. This isn’t quite a major, but it’ll do for a sports-starved golf world.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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