No more watching old Masters or AT&T Byron Nelson highlights on Golf Channel to get your fix, as at long last golf fans and gamblers finally have a new event to watch and bet on. This week World #1 Rory McIlroy teams up with Dustin Johnson to take on the team of Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff for the Taylormade Driving Relief exhibition to benefit COVID relief.
Here’s everything to know about the format, the golf course and the matchup itself before betting on the event:
As mentioned earlier, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson team up to face Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a team skins game benefiting COVID relief. All these players are sponsored by Taylormade, with Rory, DJ and Rickie the biggest ambassadors for the brand and Matthew Wolff their young and up and coming star. Hence why these four players were handpicked to be the faces for Taylormade’s charity exhibition event.
The format of the skins game will be Four-Ball. The lowest score from each player counts for the team’s score on the hole. Teams win a skin by beating their competitor on the hole. Any holes that are halved see the skin carried to the next hole.
Here are the dollar amounts for each skin:
- Holes 1-6: $50,000
- Holes 7-16: $100,000
- Hole 17: $ $200,000
- Hole 18: $500,000
Should no one win the skin on 18, players will go back to the 17th from 125 yards over and over until one team wins the final skin.
The team with the most money earned wins the event.
In addition, the teams will also raise more money for charities by amassing birdies and eagles. Each birdie is worth $25,000, each eagle is worth $50,000, and if anyone records an ace it’s worth $150,000. The birdies and eagles competition, however, will not count towards a team’s total to determine the overall winner of the match.
For the full format, click here.
The Golf Course
For most of America, this will be the first time they will either see the golf course or witness someone actually playing it. But while this property remains a mystery to most viewers, Seminole Golf Club is considered by some as one of the best golf courses in the world.
The golf course was built in 1929 by the legendary Donald Ross, and many (including Golf Digest) consider Seminole Golf Club his finest achievement. That’s high praise considering the man is also responsible for other legendary golf courses like Pinehurst No. 2, Oak Hill, Aronimink and Oakland Hills, all places that have hosted numerous major championships in their illustrious past. To the golf architecture geek community, however, it is his gold standard.
The golf club receives little exposure to the outside world because of its exclusivity. Some of the most rich and powerful men in the United States claim status as members, including past Presidents and leaders of the business world. Current members include Michael Bloomberg, Larry Fitzgerald, USGA President Mike Davis, and soon to be Tom Brady, who is currently under consideration from the member board to join the exclusive club. But for average joe’s like ourselves, this weekend will provide one of the only opportunities to feast our eyes on one of the best golf courses in America.
The mainstream exposure the club does have to the outside world is whispers of the annual Seminole Pro-Member Tournament, which attracts almost every big name player on the PGA Tour to team up with a Seminole Member. This year’s entry list can be seen here, which was won by the team of John T. McCoy and PGA Tour pro Johnson Wagner.
Like most Donald Ross designs, the golf course doesn’t punch a golfer in the mouth with grueling long distances on the scorecard. But what it lacks in length if definitely makes up in creatively designed tee-to-green routing, along with strategically placed hazards and diabolically sloped greens to make it a second shot golf course:
The piece of property itself is relatively a tiny, low laying basin sandwiched between two sand dune ridges along with the coastline to the East. Bill Corre, who teamed up with Ben Crenshaw to restore the golf course in 2016, described the piece of property as a salad bowl with two forks in it. But Donald Ross maximized almost every square inch of the property with fantastic routing. Players very seldom feel like they’re going in the same direction tee-to-green hole to hole, and when the wind is up it creates some very challenging course conditions.
Some players see the short scorecard yardages and think they can overpower the golf course by cutting off doglegs and having a short approach in. But many players who use this strategy can often struggle because the green complexes are so difficult to both hold and gain access to pin locations. Dustin Johnson himself has said that anytime he tees it up at Seminole he thinks he’s going to be aggressive and bring the golf course to his knees. But he often finds himself either getting in trouble when he does so, or taking his foot off the accelerator knowing that’s the best chance for him to get around the golf course.
Like Pinehurst, the greens are like inverted saucers that tend to repel shots without spin off the green. Unlike Pinehurst where balls roll into collection areas, repelled shots will find themselves in bunkers well below the raised putting surfaces. Depending on the pin location it can make it almost impossible to get up and down from there. In addition, the greens have significant tilt to them and it’s vital to keep the ball below the hole. Anything to the sides or above the hole runs the risk of running several feet past.
The meat of the golf course is the closing stretch of holes from 15 through 18:
This hole is a short risk/reward split fairway Par 5. Players can take the safe route down the left side of the fairway but leave themselves with a very long approach shot. Bolder players can try and take on the right side of the fairway but risk either landing in one of the bunkers down the left or into the water hazard down the right. The reward for a perfectly executed shot down the right, however, leaves a significantly shorter approach shot into the green. Expect all the pros to either try and bomb their drive over the trees and bunkers onto the leftside of the fairway, or take on the right side for a very short shot in.
This is a classic Donald Ross dogleg with fairway bunkers lurking all the way down the hole. More conservative players will try and lay up in the middle of the dog leg for a mid iron into the green. Bolder players will try and saw 40 yards off the hole by carrying the tee shot over the dog leg. This is a tricky proposition, especially when the golf course plays firm, fast and windy. Expect the players this week to try and cut the dog leg given the format of the tournament, which rewards birdies and allows wiggle room for error from one member of each team.
This short Par 3 is one of the more dramatic holes on the golf course, which plays along the beach to a green completely surrounded by bunkers. The hole runs on top of the dune ridge where players will have to fight the prevailing left-to-right wind off the ocean.
The closing hole at Seminole asks the players to tee off from on top of the sand dune to a low laying fairway flanked by bunkers. Players will then hit back up the sand dune to an elevated green to try and close out their round on a high note. Like the 17th, the players will have to contend with a strong left to right wind off the ocean for their last.
Seminole Golf Club is a place where a mid to high handicap golfer can find success. The fairways are generously wide and allows for someone to play a safe round to shoot a good score. But the golf course also makes it very challenging to a better player who takes it on looking to record a very low score. That’s where the golf course can punish any aggressive player who is slightly off line, leading to a big number on the scorecard. It’s this characteristic that truly makes Seminole Golf Club a special place.
As of this morning, the team of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are a -200 favorite over Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, whose odds sit at +165.
If this was a serious match play event with a proper golf course set up, I would expect these odds to be where they are. Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are by far the superior golfers to their competitors. Both of these golfers are more than comfortable dialing it back to play positional golf, and both are tremendous ball strikers with their mid irons to gain access to even the most tucked and tricky pins for good looks at birdie. In addition, despite his win last summer at the 3M Open the beginning of Matthew Wolff’s pro career has been very sub-par. Rickie Fowler’s form was also very lackluster in the weeks leading up to the suspension of the PGA Tour due to COVID.
But at the end of the day, not only is this event one for charity but an entertainment spectacle. For one, the pins will be set up to encourage a high rate of birdies and eagles. No one wants to watch a skins game where par or bogey can win the hole. The golf course is not going to show as much teeth as it’s capable of, even if the wind conditions make the golf course tough. In addition, the players are probably going to play very aggressive. They know that not only can they rely on their partner if one of them gets in trouble, but also because it will look much, much better on television seeing all of them try and take on these crazy lines off the tee or fire at pins.
There’s very little analysis that should be applied to handicapping this event other than the fact it’s probably going to be a putting contest. Skins will be won by aggressive players shooting at very accessible pin positions. And because it’s a one day event that’ll come down to someone’s hot or cold putting, this outcome of this event is almost entirely random.
Here’s some perspective – a team could win only five skins on the day, but if they win skins on 17 and 18 and three more from holes 7-16, they’ll win the match overall. That’s why the apparent mismatch on paper truly doesn’t exist based on the format and the circumstances of this event.
Long story short, there’s very little justification why Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are as big of favorites as they are.
I completely understand why the bookmakers have set the line as they have. It’s probably the only way they’ll be able to get even money on both sides, even if the bookmakers know this match is a complete crap shoot. But they can’t set the odds like a true coin flip because they know the money would be heavily on the side of Rory and DJ. Gamblers are starved to bet on something right now, and I expect this event to be heavily bet by both public and casual golf bettors. They’re more likely to look at Rory and DJ and bet them based on name value alone. Hell, many public bettors probably don’t even know who Matthew Wolff is!
Do not fall into this trap. Remember that this is an entertainment product, not a competitive sporting event. There is very little logic or hindsight to put into handicapping which team has an edge in this event. As such, taking the underdog is the automatic play.
Pick: Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff +165