Rory McIlroy stroked the clinch in Sunday's uber quirky charity golf game – the first televised competitive men's golf in over two months – but it was Dustin Johnson, McIlroy & # 39; s teammate of the event, who won the day.
On the way to the first fairway, Johnson ignored the advanced technology of the modern two-strap golf bag and had his clubs look back over one shoulder, as if he were lugging a bag of laundry. Last week, Johnson admitted that he couldn't remember the last time he wore his own clubs. But he knew it only took one strap.
Then, on the first green, Johnson used a golf shirt to mark his ball. He wouldn't have channeled the everyday ethos of golf better unless he might have used a bottle of beer.
Best of all, Johnson played faster than fast and hit less than 10 seconds after someone else's shot. Occasionally it looked like Johnson was late on Sunday afternoon elsewhere. On one tee, while Rickie Fowler was getting ready to hit last, Johnson had already marched at least 40 yards to the hole.
It were moments like this when some of the world's top golfers seemed to be just having a weekend. foursome – packed with its quirks – that the TaylorMade Driving Relief event came to life.
Or as Bill Murray, who interviewed NBC during the broadcast, said, "They look almost human."
In the run-up to the competition, it was often suggested that a round of golf on television, an activity that is easy to do while adhering to social distance guidelines, would be a welcome distraction for sports enthusiasts. But at about four o'clock on Sunday – when McIlory-Johnson team defeated Fowler and PGA Tour newcomer Matthew Wolff and raised more than $ 5 million for corona virus relief – the league didn't appeal as much as the camaraderie and the sense of community
For golf fans, McIlroy, Johnson and Fowler, and to a lesser extent Wolff, are well-known figures whose exploits are part of a Sunday afternoon routine. Except in the past two months.
The attraction answered a few questions for home viewers: what could professional golf look like during a pandemic? Are their golf games as rusty as ours?
The answer to the last question was a definite & # 39; yes & # 39 ;. On one of the holes at the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida, McIlroy hit a greenside chip so hard that the ball dribbled just five feet away. But in the spirit of the day, Johnson acquitted McIlroy by quickly shouting, "I've got you covered, partner."
The national chorus is, "We're in this together." Golf on Sunday had little chance to illustrate the sentiment.
As for what golf will look like during a pandemic, Sunday's game was not the perfect setting to predict the future. If the PGA Tour resumes as scheduled on June 11 at the Charles Schwab Classic in Fort Worth, Texas, the players will not be wearing shorts like any golfer did on Sunday. Wolff may not be wearing the psychedelic patterned golf shoes he chose in Florida. There will be caddies, despite how much charm was added to the event every time a millionaire golfer carried his own bag and trudged to the next shot.
But honestly, with those exceptions and a few others, playing top-flight golf didn't look much different on Sunday. Yes, there were no fans, which is no doubt shocking and in no way an improvement, but the players rolled with it. When Fowler made a big well, he waved to acknowledge an imaginary cheering crowd.
However, the absence of spectators allowed viewers to hear gossip between players. It wasn't non-stop, but some good jabs and trash were talked about.
After a quirky ride from Wolff that ended far from the other golfers, McIlroy shouted, “Hey Matt, thanks for your share of social distance.
A few minutes later, Wolff replied by trying to get under McIlroy's skin for a short but important well that McIlroy was measuring. After his ball fell into the hole, McIlroy crowed to 21-year-old Wolff: “I think you forget I won two FedEx Cups for a total of $ 25 million. I don't care, youth.
In the end, the game was the same after 18 holes, making the event on Seminole's 17th hole closest to the pin and worth $ 1.1. million. Fowler, whose wedge play is usually sparkling, drilled his shot far from the green.
Seconds earlier, to save time in the TV broadcast, the players climbed golf carts – the first time all day – to be dragged up to the 17th tee. Aware that the organic nature of the race had been spoiled, or perhaps to maintain the friendly atmosphere, Fowler said of his errant shot, "I think it's because I drove the car out here."
But Wolff's shot rolled relatively close to the hole. McIlroy ended the competition by hitting his ball a little closer to the flagpole. McIlroy raised both arms above his head.
Johnson smiled and walked cool off the tee. He raised his golf bag, backwards, on one shoulder.