Live golf set for comeback with charity event featuring McIlroy and Johnson
Leave it to the PGA to lead the charge back to normalcy for televised pro sports－with the added bonus of a huge helping hand for charity.
On Monday it was announced that world No 1 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland will team up with Dustin Johnson of the US to take on Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff of the US in a May 17 skins game that will be televised live worldwide.
The TaylorMade Driving Relief shootout will feature a $3 million purse－all of which will go to the American Nurses Foundation and Center for Disease Control Foundation to aid in their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farmers Insurance is donating an additional $1 million for a birdie and eagle pool to be given to Off Their Plate, an organization that provides meals to healthcare workers.
NBC, Golf Channel, NBCSN and Sky Sports will televise the 18-hole match. Free streaming will be available on PGA Tour Live, GOLFTV, Golfpass and Golf Channel.
“We are excited about the safe and responsible return of live golf and the opportunity to raise significant funds for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
Organizers said strict safety measures will be enforced, including no spectators and rigid testing procedures to ensure the health and safety of the golfers and production crew.
In a sign of the times, NBC golf anchor Mike Tirico will quarterback the remote commentary from his home in Michigan, while analysts Paul Azinger and Rich Lerner will join him from an off-site production facility.
McIlroy and Johnson, with 38 PGA Tour wins between them, figure to be the betting favorites against Fowler, a five-time PGA Tour winner, and Wolff, the 20-year-old NCAA champion who, in just his third PGA Tour start as a pro, won the 2019 3M Open last July.
“It’s been difficult to witness what so many are enduring over the last several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I’m excited and thankful to TaylorMade and United Health Group for making this event possible and providing us with the opportunity to show our support of those on the frontlines,” McIroy said, adding: “Dustin and I will have a lot of fun together, and our games will fit well.”
Fowler is likewise fired up for the challenge, saying: “When I heard about this event, I couldn’t get involved fast enough. It’s special to be able to have an impact and raise charitable contributions through our sport and to do it with Matthew as my partner. I know how much I have missed sports－and golf especially－so to be one of the first events returning to television is very exciting.”
The TaylorMade event follows last week’s confirmation of The Match: Champions for Charity, which will pit Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. TNT has been announced as the broadcast partner, but a date and venue have not been identified.
The PGA Tour hasn’t staged any competitions since halting play on March 12 after the first round of the Players Championship. Official tournament play is slated to resume on June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, with the first four events of the revised slate to be played without spectators.
Meanwhile, three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo of Britain thinks that banning tees from pro tournaments would make them more competitive.
“If they banned tees, if they went and played a tournament with no tees, the guys would have to go out and alter their drivers,” Faldo said on Geoff Shackelford’s weekend podcast, via Golf Digest.
“They’d say, ‘Alright, you’re allowed to place it on the grass.’ You wouldn’t be using a driver that’s six degrees. You’d need to use one that can get the ball airborne a bit. And that would seriously change the game.
“Sure, they could hit a 3-wood. And that would be their optimum. They could hit 3-wood off the ground and Rory McIlroy would still hit it 285 yards in the air. But it’d be tough to hit a driver off the deck.
“I think that’s what we have to get out there. It’s about the quality of the strike. And that would bring in a little more inconsistency.”
According to Faldo, players would need a new type of driver that could lift the ball higher if they were not using a tee.
“It would go a long way toward solving the distance problem and making the pro game a lot more competitive,” he said.