Golf ready to take its first small step back with Rory, DJ, Rickie and Wolff

They will be carrying their own bags, putting to flagsticks that likely won’t be tended and retrieving their golf balls from a cup prepped for safety.

But they also are four professional golfers who compete at the highest level, and they will be shown competing live on television.

It’s a start.

The TaylorMade Driving Relief event on Sunday at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida, is the first televised event of PGA Tour golfers competing since the Players Championship was canceled on March 12.

“Just been trying to stay as patient as possible,” said Rory McIlroy, who headlines the event along with Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff. “For a tour player to spend this prolonged length of time at home … you’re just trying to find ways to fill your time. I think if anything, just appreciate the little things, the things that we took for granted before this all happened.”

What happened was the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered the sports world in March and caused the PGA Tour to cancel or postpone numerous events. By the time the PGA Tour resumes next month, 13 weeks of tournaments will have passed.

That’s why the TaylorMade Driving Relief event and the match on May 24 involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are so welcome. It is finally an opportunity to see a live sporting event, even if the outcome is of no consequence.

“I’m excited to get back to play,” Fowler said. “It’s been the longest break I’ve ever had, the most time I’ve been able to spend at home. Been looking at it the best way possible. At the end of the day, we all love to compete, so I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of guys are going to be playing the first few events as soon as they can.”

The skins format is unusual because it involves teams. The lowest ball for each team counts, and if there is a tie among the two teams, the money amount on the line carries over to the next hole.

McIlroy and Johnson are playing for the American Nurses Foundation, while Fowler and Wolff are playing for the CDC Foundation.

Since all of the money is going to charity, both teams will start with $500,000 in the bank. The first six holes will be worth $50,000 each, with holes seven through 16 worth $100,000 each. The 17th will be worth $200,000 and the $18th will go for $500,000.

If there are ties, the money value carries over to the next hole. If the 18th hole is tied, players will head to the par-3 17th hole.

The total amount on the line is $3 million. There will be additional bonus money awarded with $25,000 being paid for a birdie, $50,000 for an eagle and $150,000 for a hole-in-one or albatross. No putts for birdie can be conceded. The event is being televised by NBC starting at 2 p.m. ET.

“It’s definitely exciting just to play,” Johnson said. “We’ve got four guys who all live down here and we like to play, so it’s fun to get out and play a match. Obviously, with no live sports really on right now … I think the world needs something to watch, so I think 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.”

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