Rory McIlroy still the man to beat, but was Seminole the real winner of Sunday's charity skins match?
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 18/05/20 6:42pm
Live golf returned to Sky Sports for the first time in 66 days on Sunday, but what were the biggest talking points from the TaylorMade Driving Relief at Seminole?
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson were crowned winners of a relaxed contest against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, but the result was insignificant compared to the millions raised for healthcare charities in the United States.
Of course, it was the first time since March 12 that we got to see four of the best players in the world plying their trade in front of the live TV cameras, but what can we take away from the event?
Seminole the biggest winner?
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson might have been the victors in the match, but the big winner on the day live golf returned to our screens was the golf course.
Seminole is regarded as one of the most exclusive clubs in the United States, but the Juno Beach layout created by the legendary Donald Ross and opened in 1929, is also renowned as one of the best designs in history.
Regularly ranking in the top 10 best courses in the US, the aerial shots of the property prompted many viewers to question how Ross managed to squeeze 18 holes of golfing paradise into such a small area.
Every hole was a visual treat that will be enjoyed by Walker Cup players and fans next year, and the layout provided a decent test for four of the world's best players, regardless of how rusty they might have been after several weeks starved of competitive golf.
McIlroy still the top dog
Rory McIlroy looked in fine fettle from tee to green, particularly with driver in hand, and the world's best player with the world's most aesthetically-pleasing swing (apologies to Louis Oosthuizen) proved he will remain the man to beat when competitive golf returns next month.
He faltered occasionally on and around the greens, and one chip that he flat-out chunked, but there was nothing that cannot be ironed out in the weeks before he tees up at the Charles Schwab Challenge on June 11.
The alleged "weakest" part of his game is apparently his wedge approach play from between 100-150 yard range, but he may have surprised even himself when it was the wedge that won the contest - and a cool $1.1m in unclaimed skins on the 120-yard play-off hole.
It was fitting the undisputed world No 1 should have the honour of hitting the first shot seen on live television for 66 days, and just as fitting he sent it 320 yards down the middle of the fairway. Golf was back … sort of!
Chance missed (Part One)
Four players competing as two teams of two in a skins format should have taken no more than three hours, 45 minutes to reach a conclusion.
However, we were well over the four-hour mark by the time the star quartet headed holed out at the 18th before heading back to the penultimate tee for the nearest-the-pin shootout to resolve the final six skins.
There were no caddies, the players had to carry their own bags and use range finders to determine yardages, but the pace of play for an exhibition match was lethargic and deliberate, and not conducive to retain an audience with a short attention span.
This was a chance missed to prove professional golf can be played at the lively pace which was on display when the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player were in their prime.
Get on with it guys, especially when there are no world ranking points up for grabs.
Chance missed (Part two)
With each player fitted with microphones, I was looking forward to plenty of banter and "trash talk" between the teams.
When McIlroy holed a tricky six-footer to halve the second hole he hit back at Matthew Wolff's chest-thumping declaration that he was 30 yards past the world No 1 off the tee with a gentle reminder he had trousered $25m for winning two FedExCup titles.
The remainder of the contest was disappointingly bland in the banter department. There was far too much respect for good shots, whether played by team-mate or opponent, and not enough belittling of undoubted talents when we witnessed the occasional duff.
Like the disappointing pace of play, this was another chance missed to encourage the viewers to see the pros in their true character and inject more humour into the game, a refreshing change to the portrayed robotic nature of many of today's young players.
Trump's vision for the Masters
Host broadcasters, NBC, sprang a surprise when they followed a Skype call with Bill Murray with a live phone interview with another well-known celebrity golfer - President Donald Trump.
His 10-minute chat with presenter Mike Tirico drifted too deeply into political territory too often, but he did have some interesting viewpoints on restoring sport to some kind of normality - including the return of crowds.
Like him or loathe him, the most divisive US President in history laid out a vision for the Masters in November and expressed his wish to see the fairways of Augusta National lined with patrons to give the tournament the atmosphere it deserves.
Talk of crowds returning to any sporting event in the current climate seems a long way off, but allowing patrons to attend the Masters, if it is safe to do so, would be a huge shot in the arm for golf.
Just a shame Mr Trump did not mention the Ryder Cup!