CHARGED UP AFFAIR

McIlroy, Johnson triumph as charity match offers ‘normalcy’

Fowler’s seven birdies put pressure on the world number one

In Summary

·Eager golf fans tuned in for one of the rare few live televised events and were treated to a bit of mild trash talk early on, as McIlroy teased his 21-year-old opponent Wolff after sinking a putt for par four on the second hole.

•“I think you forget I’ve won two FedEx Cups that totalled at US$25 million,” —McIlroy

Rory McIlroy in past action
Rory McIlroy in past action
Image: /REUTERS

A tie-break win for world number one Rory McIlroy and teammate Dustin Johnson at the Driving Relief two-on-two charity skins match Sunday injected suspense to a course absent of fans and applause in the COVID-19 era.

Wearing microphones that captured their smack talk and frustrations, caddie-less competitors McIlroy and Johnson faced off against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, carrying their own clubs and adhering to social distancing procedures after undergoing a battery of tests and screenings.

Eager golf fans tuned in for one of the rare few live televised events and were treated to a bit of mild trash talk early on, as McIlroy teased his 21-year-old opponent Wolff after sinking a putt for par four on the second hole.

“I think you forget I’ve won two FedEx Cups that totalled at US$25 million,” said McIlroy. “Doesn’t faze me, youngster.”

That bravado was eventually tempered, however, as Fowler’s seven birdies put pressure on the world number one and Johnson, the heavily favoured pair who boast five majors titles between them.

The competition came down to a closest-to-the-hole tiebreak, in which McIlroy clinched the victory despite an admirable 120-yard wedge shot from Wolff, letting out a whoop and offering his teammate an “air-five.”

“These Seminole greens, the ball can do funny things when you think it’s in a good place,” said McIlroy, who basked in the “normalcy” of being back in the competition.“It’s been awesome and it’s nice to get back on the golf course.”

Raising more than $5.5 million through sponsors and donations for COVID-19 relief, the competition quickly trended on social media, as golf-starved fans revelled in seeing their favourite players compete in unique circumstances.