Power Rankings: TaylorMade Driving Relief
May 12, 2020
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson discuss Taylormade Driving Relief
You knew that golf would lead the return of live sports competition of any kind at the highest level in the United States. Given its inherent physical distancing, it was just a matter of when and where for players and fans to reconnect in the era of COVID-19.
TaylorMade Driving Relief on Sunday, May 17, forever will mark the reentry. It's an 18-hole team skins match pitting Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff. Four-ball format will be used throughout. All $4 million committed is reserved for relief efforts for the pandemic. There is no prize money for the professionals.
RELATED: Fans at home will be able to contribute to TaylorMade Driving Relief’s COVID-19 relief efforts thanks to PGA TOUR Charities’ online and Text-To-Give donation platforms powered by GoFundMe Charity. Click here to donate.
MORE: TaylorMade Driving Relief to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts | Live golf set to return | Seminole Golf Club ready for its close-up | Key clubs: Rory's driver | Similarities run deep for Fowler, Wolff
You are in for a treat. Augmenting the experience is that Seminole Golf Club is hosting. It basks in privacy, but it's unassuming in that it hasn't sought a mechanism to attract attention. What better a time than right now for the Donald Ross creation to introduce itself to a television audience and the most avid golfers and fans who never have laid eyes on the property? If it wanted unique, it got it. The captive audience is the bonus.
The 90-year-old stock par 72 situated hard against the Atlantic Ocean in Juno Beach, Florida, is a work of art. It's golf in its purest form. With sand dunes and 185 bunkers, it looks and plays like a links, albeit with palm trees and other tropical flora within view.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw recently completed a three-year renovation of the course. If you're reminded of their restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 for the 2014 U.S. Open, well, you should be. That's another Ross masterpiece and the collaborative vision isn't unintentional.
Ross' genius routing and his use of the topography remain his signatures on the track that tips at just 6,836 yards on only 140 acres. Because of its location, wind is the primary defense. Come Sunday, prevailing breezes at 10-15 mph are forecast. This will allow for the course to test as designed. The old saying at Seminole is that every hole presents a different wind direction because of the angles, but the forces generating the invisible enemy cannot be predicted no matter the preparation. Keeping the ball low and on the ground at times will be necessary and fun to watch.
Rain will fall in the days leading up to and possibly in passing on Sunday. Even though the bermuda greens drain well, any reduction in speed could (should?) be offset with challenging hole locations. Because of extreme cant in spots and omnipresent run-off areas, the local parlance includes a reference of "greens visited in regulation." It's a snarky tip of the visor after approaches fail to hold their targets. Indeed, distance control and precision on approach will be at a premium.
The format of the skins game is ideal for the cause. Talent of the quality donating its time should yield numerous pushes and allow the gamble to swell. With Nos. 14 and 15 as par 5s, heroics, or at least attempts, are guaranteed. In the round-long taffy pull defining the levels of difficulty of where holes will be cut, those two should be ripe for eagles. The guys will be deep enough into the day by then to have shed whatever competitive rust is remaining.
While unlikely, it's not out of the realm of possibility that this important event could persuade outgoing seniors who played golf collegiately to return for one more season. In late March, the NCAA extended the eligibility for seniors competing in spring sports for one year, and Seminole will be hosting the Walker Cup in May of 2021.
1. Rory McIlroy & Dustin Johnson
With the way McIlroy was hitting it for months, he'd be forgiven if he thought about taking on Fowler and Wolff alone. In seven starts worldwide since a T3 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, McIlroy hasn't finished worse than T5 twice. Now, with Johnson as his wingman and playing four-ball, this is as formidable an multinational duo as you're going to see. DJ's low ball flight is built for this, too.
2. Rickie Fowler & Matthew Wolff
Since they size up as the weaker of the teams, if they pull off victory, you won't be able to rule out their connection as Oklahoma State products, toughness shaped in the wind as they cut their teeth and/or the value of being prohibitive underdogs with nothing to lose. Still, while Wolff is full of swagger that should make for great TV, this has the feeling of a little too much, too soon for the 21-year-old. Head-to-head in individual competition against McIlroy and DJ in his young career, Wolff is a combined 0-10-1.
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson long-drive compilation