Forget awkward moments, shaky shots — seeing golf again is what matters most

The idea of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson playing together on a Sunday in May, with Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff also part of the discussion, it would have been quite an intriguing thought in a pre-COVID-19 world.

Do it on May 17th and you're talking about a big championship on Sunday, which should be the final round of the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco, with a group of heavy golf hitters and needle movers filling in the boxes. radio waves.

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That dream disappeared a long time ago, the result of coronavirus pandemic that paralyzed the world and put golf on the shelf, like any other sporting activity.

So Sunday became the first, in a way. Live golf, with the aforementioned superstars carrying their own bags, having a PGA Tour official handling the flag, and everyone involved socially distanced in the best possible way, while raising millions of dollars for charity.

For the first time since the Players' Championship was canceled after the first round on March 12, golf was broadcast to the world on Sunday in the form of TaylorMade Driving Relief, an event organized to give sports-hungry spectators something to watch while also raise significant funds for COVID-19 relief efforts.

McIlroy and Johnson finished the winners when the event had to be resolved with a competition closer to the hole, mounted on an abbreviated 17th hole at the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.

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They hadn't gotten a skin since the sixth hole, but managed to get $ 1.1 million in capturing the final hole, when McIlroy barely hit his iron 9 shot 120 yards inside Wolff & # 39; s to end the competition.

This produced the biggest drama of the day, but the winners were not really the players, but their charities. McIlroy and Johnson won $ 1,850,000 for the American Nurses Foundation, while Fowler and Wolff won $ 1,150,000 for the CDC Foundation.

Play $ 1 million in bonuses and a campaign to raise funds online and via text, and the event generated more than $ 5.5 million in charitable donations.

"It was good to be back on the golf course and back to some kind of normalcy," said McIlroy.

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Rickie Fowler can hear the applause of a non-existent audience, while his partner, Matthew Wolff, is pumped after Fowler's shot.

The golf was surprisingly irregular, even with forced play, as the venerable Seminole Golf Club was faced with the challenge of frustrating the best in the world. A relatively short course by today's standards – which means numerous short-range shots for the elite of the game – Seminole, however, remained and gave a hint of prestige.

Seminole had never opened its doors for live television coverage. Next year, it is expected to host the Walker Cup – the amateur version of the Ryder Cup.

Tough by the Atlantic Ocean, the club has acquired mystical qualities over the years. It is here that Ben Hogan is famous for every year preparing for the Masters, where two Masters champions – Claude Harmon and Henry Picard – were longtime club professionals and where a number of corporate tycoons and golf heavyweights pay dues.

It is also a place where football stars Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald has cabinets.

Knowing this was part of the event's appeal.

Among the highlights of the joke, there was an exchange when Wolff said to Johnson, "Hey, DJ, is this a dump?"

Very good joke from a guy who wasn't even in high school when a controversial Whistling Straits bunker could have cost Johnson an important championship. Was that really 10 years ago? Yes, in 2010, Johnson founded his club on the 18th hole of the Wisconsin field, thinking he was in a garbage dump. The penalty of two shots cost him a spot in a playoff won by Martin Kaymer.

Most of all, though, the players competing and having a chance to watch them was the main attraction.

"It's really fun to get out of here, do something fun and do something for charity," said Johnson during the NBC broadcast. "It's nice to get to the golf course and have a little competition. I know we are all looking forward to playing golf."

Johnson shyly admitted earlier in the week that he had not played a round of golf since the Players' Championship until May 10. At times, his game seemed a little irregular, as were parts of the proceedings.

In a perfect world, there might be some choice, but in the world we are now part of, this event should be celebrated more than analyzed.

It was not just an opportunity to see golf live on an iconic course, but the charitable aspect was achieved through a unique skin competition, which generated a lot of money whenever a best ball score was tied at a given hole.

After a slow start for everyone, Fowler helped build leadership for his team by making five little birds. Although his partner, Wolff, did not contribute much and was unstable at times, he also showed his enormous ability to drive, making some tee moves well beyond 350 yards and earning cash bonuses for those long trips.

The event also tried to set an example of safe practices going forward. Everyone involved took a COVID-19 test. Players were not allowed to reach the field more than an hour before tee time. To better help with social distance, their caddies were not present, with players carrying their own bags.

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Rory McIlroy lets his opponents know about his career achievements after draining a shot at the TaylorMade Driving Relief event.

Nobody took the flag – this task was assigned to PGA Tour rules officer Mark Russell, who did this throughout the round. Another person was on hand to scour bunkers so there would be no problems there.

Some of those aspects will change when the real thing is set to start again next month in Texas, at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial. Caddies will be carrying bags, handling pins and collecting bunkers. The tests will take place, but not every day. Social detachment practices will be in effect. One thing will be the same: without spectators.

Sunday gave us a small taste of what it will be like, as well as next week’s departure involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Soon after, he will be on the air, hoping that a limited number of fans will be able to participate in golf events in late summer.

That remains to be determined, but for now, we have seen golf take a necessary small step.

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