Live competitive golf now on the horizonThe TaylorMade Driving Relief match gives us intrigue at historic Seminole
May 04, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
TaylorMade Driving Relief trailer
We’ve had simulated golf. Video-game golf. Archival golf. And recreational golf live-streamed from phones.
We’ve seen Beefy Bryson bang balls into a simulator to showcase his ever-increasing clubhead speed. Mike Trout holed one from off his balcony, proving the gift of great hand-eye coordination is an asset across sporting endeavors. And plenty of pros have offered tips and interacted with fans across social media during the downtime.
There have been plenty of ways to scratch the golf itch over the past few weeks.
You may have read golf books or listened to the plethora of podcasts covering our sport (would this be an inappropriate time to plug my own? Maybe you’ve upgraded your at-home practice facilities.
Or perhaps you’ve been limited to taking swings in your living room and checking your positions in the bathroom mirror. Who hasn’t glanced at their supination while washing up for supper, or taken a look at their wrist flexion after lunchtime? One word of warning if you’re using quarantine to make massive swing changes, especially if your reflection is your only source of feedback. It was no less than Bobby Jones who once wrote, “There is no denying, except in the case of experts, that the practice swing is, almost always, far better than that made with the intent of striking the ball.”
Perhaps you’ve been fortunate to play, using the game as an escape and way to get outdoors.
No matter how you’ve been interacting with the game these past few weeks, one thing has been missing. One big thing that’s a source of enjoyment for so many of us.
Live, televised competition.
We interrupt your backyard chipping contest to announce a live golf broadcast featuring in-the-flesh professional golfers. No algorithms predicting winners at Augusta National or PGA TOUR players picking up their PlayStation controllers for the first time since high school.
Instead, you can watch Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson face Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief match. The match will be played May 17 at historic Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.
The PGA TOUR’s scheduled return in mid-June has been a beacon of hope, but five weeks can feel like an eternity when you’re uncertain what tomorrow brings. Now we’ll get to see four of the game’s best play a course that many of us have only dreamt about.
This is the first televised event at Seminole, one of the finest designs from the hands of Donald Ross. Ben Hogan used to spend weeks at Seminole each year. He once called Seminole “the only course I could be perfectly happy playing every single day.”
“If you can play well at Seminole, you can play well anywhere,” he added.
Seeing how four power players handle the intricacies of this classic design adds another layer of intrigue to next week’s event.
"When you first get there and you look at it you think, 'OK, I should tear this place up,'" Johnson said about the host venue. "And then when you get done playing, you add your score up and it's never very good."
Watching something live and unscripted is a welcome return to normalcy, whatever that may mean in these times. Some may call it naivete but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
No, a win won’t add another line to the gilded resumes of the four competitors. We’re still weeks away from “official” competition. This event will have a higher purpose, though. Charity donations of $4 million have already been pledged, with more on the way. Viewers can donate to COVID-19 during the telecast.
It’s reminiscent of another four-ball match that took place on one of America’s most exclusive clubs. In 1956, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson played amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward at Cypress Point on the Monterey peninsula in what many have termed the greatest four-ball match of all-time.
That four combined to play Cypress Point in 26 under par, with the pros winning 1 up. That match was a friendly wager between Eddie Lowery, the caddie for Francis Ouimet in his historic U.S. Open win, and George Coleman, who later served as Seminole’s president.
After word got out, the foursome played in front of 1,000 people, which is probably more people than see Cypress Point in a year. The match between Nelson, Hogan, Venturi and Ward only lives on in legend and Mark Frost’s wonderful book, “The Match.”
“It would be interesting to see a couple of the good pros and amateurs play a match like that today,” Nelson wrote in his autobiography.
There will be no fans at Seminole, appropriate in a time of social distancing, but the miracle of television will allow exponentially more people to watch. Nor will there be any amateurs, though Wolff was a collegian only last year.
But this match will be memorable for the role it is playing, establishing golf’s place in our new world. It can’t come soon enough.