The best player in the world ended the TaylorMade Driving Relief match-play skins event at Seminole Golf Club on Sunday with a walk-off wedge shot that netted a tidy $1.1 million. The team of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson team took 11 of 18 skins from their competitors, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, winning $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation. But it took until the last shot of the day to make it official.
After winning three of the first six holes and racing out to an early lead, it looked like McIlroy and Johnson were going to run away with the match, but they were unable to win another hole in regulation. Most of that was because Fowler went on a birdie bonanza with seven coming in his first 16 holes. He absolutely carried Wolff to nice lead down the home stretch with Fowler's birdie on No. 11 being worth two skins and $200,000.
Fowler did it again on the par-4 12th and flipped the script on the entire match to make it 7-5 and give the Oklahoma State boys a nice lead in the money department, but things cooled off as both teams parred the next four holes.
Then the heat got turned back up a little bit. While the first 16 holes were worth either $50,000 or $100,000, that changed over the final two. The 17th was worth $200,000, and the 18th was worth $500,000.
The way a skins match works is that the cash on a given hole rolls over to the next one if the two teams tie a hole. Because the teams split every hole following the 12th, the roll-over amount going to No. 17 was $600,000 and then $1.1 million entering No. 18.
Neither team won the final two holes of regulation, though Johnson and McIlroy both had good birdie looks at the last.
As such, the match went to a closest-to-the-pin competition from 120 yards away on the par-3 17th. Wolff went first and stuck his shot to a distance he called, "Good, not great." Fowler and Johnson both missed the green, which left the No. 1 player in the world, McIlroy, with the entire match on his swing.
McIlroy stuck it (barely) inside of Wolff and celebrated the victory with Johnson. The duo won 11 skins, the match and the aforementioned $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation, while Fowler and Wolff took seven skins and $1.15 million for the CDC Foundation.
"I wouldn't be known for my wedge play," McIlroy joked on NBC after the match.
It was clear all four golfers got a little tight at the end as the dollar amount started rising and they started running out of holes. Well, maybe three of four. Johnson, who finished narrowly over par on the day, was flying around the course and routinely walking ahead of everybody else. It was on brand and on pace. He plays faster with $3 million on the line than most people play with $3 on the line.
The entire event was a blast. Seminole's national debut was a sensation, and while the golf itself was not exactly major championship-caliber on what was supposed to be a major championship Sunday (only two of the four players broke par), the banter was friendly and fun and the ending was terrific.
There are innumerable takeaways from this event that will be discussed in the days ahead.
McIlroy looked a lot like the No. 1 player in the world he was when golf was paused in March. Fowler's putting stroke looked as pure as ever. Socially-distanced golf seems to actually work. D.J. was so on-brand, it was almost painful. Seminole was everything we were promised. Playing without caddies was cool and different. And on and on we could go.
But the biggest takeaway is this: After over eight weeks with no professional golf in our lives, it was a hell of a thing to get four of the best on the planet competing for a great cause to raise over $5 million total from event partners and individuals at one of the best courses in the world. That exact thing won't happen every weekend, but amid the coronavirus pandemic, on this weekend, it was a great baby step in the right direction.