TaylorMade Driving Relief, a charity golf match, gave us a picture of what the upcoming spectator-free tournaments will look like.
There hasn’t been a full PGA tournament since the Arnold Palmer over two months ago, and the excitement buildup for the TaylorMade Driving Relief was a pretty big deal — it signaled that live golf has returned. With professional golfers such as Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Matt Wolff headlining the event, it was a welcome sight for fans to have favorite players hitting the greens again.
Having live golf back was huge for sport in general, but it also gave us a glimpse of what the new normal looks like for the PGA. First off, it was a shock — but also humbling — to see the sport’s marquee players carrying their own bags.
With the next four PGA events to be played starting next month under similar conditions, a spectator-less format was indicative of what we can expect, at least for the near future of golf tournaments. The lack of spectators made for a muted feel with no celebrations in between shots and the admiration coming from the players themselves.
The charity match teamed up Fowler with fellow Oklahoma State University alum Wolff, who played for the CDC Foundation against McIlroy and Johnson, who ultimately clocked in the $1.85 million win for the American Nurses Foundation. It took place at the Seminole Golf Club, beautifully situated along the coast of Juno Beach, Florida, a club familiar to the players.
The win for McIlroy and Johnson wasn’t determined until the closest-to-the-pin competition had to be decided at the par-three 17th hole. After Fowler had put on an MVP display all day long, McIlroy came up with the goods. As usual, the four-time major champion thrived under pressure best.
The lack of on-site fan enthusiasm gave the event a practice feel. Social distancing even muted celebration between the teams and resulted in an awkward quality with the on-the-greens interviews. However, in the end, there was a lot to celebrate having the sport back.
Next up will be a similar TV broadcast for charity featuring Tiger Woods teaming up with Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, FL. Proceeds from Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity will be going towards COVID-19 relief, with coverage beginning May 24, viewable on the TNT channel.
PGA competition will be back in action in a few weeks, with the Charles Schwab Challenge kicking things off June 11 (rescheduled from May), followed up by RBC Heritage June 18, Travelers Championship June 25, and the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the beginning of July. All four will be played without fans on-site. Depending on COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, no word on if any events after Rocket will start integrating spectators again.
In the meantime, we’re all just happy that golf is building back up from the pandemic. Even if it wasn’t quite the experience we’re used to, there was a lot to celebrate about having the sport back live on our screens.
Stay tuned here for all your golf highlights. Stay safe, everyone.