McIlroy, Johnson headline charity match for COVID-19 relief

AP – Live golf returns to television in just under two weeks with a USD3 million charity skins match for COVID-19 relief that includes Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and the broadcast debut of fabled Seminole Golf Club.

McIlroy and Johnson, both major champions who have reached number one in the world, will face Oklahoma State alumni Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in an event billed as the ‘TaylorMade Driving Relief’.

UnitedHealth Group Inc is backing the USD3 million donation. McIlroy and Johnson are playing for the American Nurses Foundation, while Fowler and Wolff will play for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation.

All four players have endorsements and relationships with the groups involved. Farmers Insurance has pledged USD1 million for a birdies-and-eagle pool to benefit ‘Off Their Plate’, which supports COVID-19 health care workers. PGA Tour Charities will have a “text-to-donate” online programme for viewers to pledge additional money.

It will be the first live golf since the pandemic shut down sports worldwide seven weeks ago.

And it will be the first time that Seminole, the Donald Ross course in South Florida, has a televised event.

File photo shows Rory McIlroy posing with his trophy after winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. PHOTO: AFP

Seminole is located on a tiny tract along the Atlantic Ocean in Juno Beach, designed in such a manner that nearly every shot faces a slightly different wind direction. It has never been ranked out of the top 20 on Golf Digest’s list of ‘America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses’ since the ranking began in 1966.

“I hope that we can provide some respite and entertainment for those tuning in across the globe,” McIlroy said.

The charity match will be televised by NBC networks, including Golf Channel, along with Sky Sports and the PGA Tour’s global TV partners. It also will be streamed live on various platforms.

Mike Tirico will provide commentary from his home in Michigan, while analysts such as Paul Azinger will work from an off-site production set. Two TV reporters will be on the course.

The tour said it would follow strict CDC social distancing guidance and local orders and use what it described as appropriate testing to protect the health of the players, production crew and others on site. No spectators will be allowed.

“Golf fans around the world can look forward to a unique, interactive and entertaining event that will help those in need,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are to play an exhibition match with NFL greats Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, though details such as the date and the course have yet to be announced.

Official golf is not expected to return until June 11-14 at Colonial in Texas, although the tour is still trying to work out details on essential personnel and testing that would be required.