Rory McIlroy showed why he’s the world’s No. 1 when he hit the shot heard ’round Seminole late Sunday afternoon, one that proved to be the sparkling moment as we finally returned to live golf on television.
With $1.1 million at stake for his team in the TaylorMade/COVID Relief Skins Game, it all came down to one final shot.
The teams of McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler/Matt Wolff walked off the 18th green with six skins undecided. That remaining whopping jackpot would determine the winner and it was a closest to the pin at the gorgeous, ocean-side 17th.
This time it would be from just 121-yards, by Rory’s range-finder (yes, they were allowed for this match).
Fowler and Wolff had the honors. Fowler put the heat on his 21-year-old compadre. Fowler said he was in-between clubs. He told Wolff: “You’ve gotta hit a shot here, just being honest. Show me something.” Wolff was totally up to the task, planted one in there about 12 feet underneath the hole then stepped back and watched Rickie half-slash a nine-iron that missed the entire green wide right.
D.J., who stunk up Seminole most of the afternoon, led off his team and left his shot short left in a bunker.
No pressure Rory, no pressure.
McIlroy launched a high wedge that came down soft, pin-high, 10-feet. Winner-winner, chicken dinner.
It was a wonderfully dramatic finish on an afternoon that raised just north of $5.5 million for COVID-19 relief.
It was one heck of an afternoon tour of the Donald Ross masterpiece that is Seminole Golf Club. There was talk that Seminole might be overpowered by these tour players. Seminole would have none of that. She defended her honor quite nicely and roughed the boys up a bit. And Seminole didn’t have all its teeth sharpened. The wind was light, only 10-12 miles per hour, but still enough to confuse those guys early and often. There was three-to-four inches of rain in the two days leading up to the match. Still, the green complexes were a daunting task and it was easy to see why Ben Hogan liked to prepare for The Masters at Seminole.
The first hole, just 405 yards, set the tone. All four had short wedge shots in — result? No birdies, thank-you.
No birdies on the second hole either. Wolff had just 100 in and won $100,000 for his team with a 356-yard crushing drive. Again, no birdies.
Third hole, 555, par five, just one birdie among the three — came from D.J. for three skins. Truth be known, it was the first of only two birdies for D.J. — the other came on the 510-yard par fiv e 14th — the ONLY hole on the course where all four players made birdie. Truth be known, D.J. was the least-prepared, his game was covered in rust, he drove it poorly and found water at least three times off the tee. This was a best-ball but if you had to figure what D.J. shot, it might have been around 76.
So much for Seminole being overpowered.
The day’s Birdie-Meister was Fowler. His wonderful putting stroke accounted for seven but that laid-off swing of his also garnered him five bogeys (he picked up a couple of long par putts with Wolff in the hole).
Wolff, ranked 110th in the world and by far the youngest, looked uncomfortable at first but settled in nicely.
Rory simply looked the most tournament-ready. He was solid all day and was around three-under for the day.
Social distancing was handled well. The guys toted their clubs and had no issues, all are in top physical shape.
NBC’s Mike Tirico provided the low-point of the broadcast when he brought in nonsensical Bill Murray for some totally confusing and useless banter when the teams were on the par three fifth hole. Tirico wasn’t even aware that the Rory-D.J. team had won the hole and four skins with a par. Tirico said there was a carry-over going to six. Thanks Mike.
Steve Sands (Golf Channel) didn’t know his Seminole history. He called Ben Hogan “an honorary member.” Mr. Hogan was an actual, card-carrying member.
NBC brought The Trumpster (aka President Donald Trump) in for a few observations. “It’s about time. Nice to be watching, so good to see these great players playing,” Trump observed. Now who wouldn’t agree with that?
At the end of the day, all things considered, this was a really, really nice event, a nice production given limited crew, hand-held cameras and social distancing.
The players were miked, and there wasn’t all that much banter. On the second hole, when they made Rory putt a short one, he holed it and declared: “You forget that I won two FedEx Cups!”
Rory let that final wedge shot remind them.
In a big way.
It was great to have live golf back.
Really, really great.