Dustin Johnson had gone nearly two months between playing golf holes, a stretch that lasted from mid-March at The Players Championship until this past Sunday, when he first began practicing for golf’s gradual return since the COVID-19 pandemic brought sport to a standstill.
“I birdied the first hole,” Johnson said. “I got back into it real fast.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Though the PGA TOUR will not return for another four weeks—at the Charles Schwab Challenge on June 11—Johnson and three more of the world’s best will still tee it up in a skins match here at the historic Seminole Golf Club on May 17, Sunday for the TaylorMade Driving Relief supported by UnitedHealth Group.
Johnson will play alongside World No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy with the duo pitted against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a charitable event for COVID-19 relief efforts. Johnson and McIlroy will play for the American Nurses Foundation, while Fowler and Wolff will play for the Center for Disease Control Foundation. Each team will start with US$500,000 in the bank.
“Obviously with no live sports really on (TV) right now, I think the world needs something to watch,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can go out and put on a good show, and it’s for a great cause. We’re raising a lot of money for people who really need it, so it’s great to be a part of that, and I think we’re all really looking forward to it.”
The two-man teams will play four-ball, with each player playing his own ball. Each team’s score for a hole is the lower score from the two partners.
Holes No. 1 through 6 will be worth US$50,000, while Nos. 7 through 16 will be for US$100,000. Nos. 17 and 18 will be worth US$200,000 and US$500,000, respectively. In addition to the skins match, Farmers Insurance will award US$25,000 for every birdie, US$50,000 for each eagle and US$150,000 for any hole-in-one or albatross (double eagle).
“We’ll take the underdog spot, but basically it’s a toss-up on who’s got the hot putter, and it could be just a battle throughout the day,” Fowler said.
“One team might be playing better than the other. So, I don’t look at it at any side necessarily being favoured. We’re going to go tee it up and try and beat up on each other as bad as possible but have some fun.
“It’s pretty cool that we get to do this and raise some good money for charity because this has been a crazy, interesting time for our country and the world.”
Farmers Insurance has also pledged US$1 million to back a birdies-and-eagle pool to benefit Off Their Plate, a fundraising initiative through World Central Kitchen that helps both frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers and impacted restaurant shift employees.
PGA TOUR Charities’ online fundraiser is now live on GoFundMe, where fans around the world can come together and donate to support additional COVID-19 relief efforts in conjunction with TaylorMade Driving Relief, building upon the event’s initial US$4 million raised. As they enjoy the competition, viewers located in the United States will also be able to donate to the fundraiser by texting ‘DRIVINGRELIEF’ to 41-411. Standard text rates apply.
PGA TOUR Charities’ GoFundMe will benefit qualified organizations providing or in need of COVID-19 relief. Fans outside the U.S. can donate via www.pgatour.com/drivingrelief
“I don’t feel like I’m giving that much, but the impact of it can be huge,” McIlroy said. “For us to get to play a golf match, it’s awesome that we can do that and bring some entertainment to quite a few people but also help in some way. What we’re doing, it’s a great thing. It’s a very small piece of all of this, but just happy to be able to help in some way and bring some joy to people when they haven’t had anything to really look forward to for a couple of months.”