Sobel: Breaking Down the Rules and Format for TaylorMade Driving Relief Skins Match


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If there exists a first rule of betting – whether it’s sports betting or any other kind – it’s to know the game. Just as you wouldn’t sit down at the blackjack table without understanding how it works, you shouldn’t blindly throw money on, say, a golf wager, no matter how starved you’ve been to place a bet during the sports-sagging COVID-19 pandemic.

Your first opportunity to bet on PGA Tour players in a televised competition will come Sunday, when Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson team up against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief event at Seminole Golf Club.

There will be more than a few knee-jerk reactions to this opportunity.

Some bettors will see the top-five, major champion pairing of Rory and DJ and immediately back them to win. Others will be enticed by the big plus-money of the Oklahoma State duo and take a chance on the ‘dogs.

We’ll know by Sunday evening which decision is right and which is wrong, but here’s what we know right now: Don’t make that decision without knowing the game.

This will be a skins match and for the uninitiated, here’s how it works: All four players will play their own ball on each hole. The lowest score wins for his team. So let’s say McIlroy and Johnson each make par, while Fowler makes birdie and Wolff makes double-bogey. Even though the aggregate score of the first team is lower, the latter team wins that hole due to the lowest score.

Standard stuff for anyone who’s played a recreational skins match.

And just like any good skins game, holes will carry over. Which means that if both teams halve with the low score on the first two holes, then the third hole is worth three skins. Again, pretty standard.

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Now here’s where it gets a little interesting. Even though this match is being billed as a $3 million charitable fundraiser, each team will start with $500,000 to ostensibly keep them from being shut out in their donation. The match itself will be worth $2 million, but that money won’t be distributed evenly between the 18 holes.

Instead, holes 1-6 will be worth $50,000 each; holes 7-16 are worth $100,000; the 17th hole is worth $200,000; and the 18th will be played for $500,000.

(There are rules in place for a playoff hole if the 18th is tied, which would then become a closest-to-the-hole competition if the tie isn’t broken. Money will also be donated for each eagle and birdie and two long-drive competitions, though none of that will factor into the overall winner for betting purposes.)

Essentially, this will turn into a battle of quality over quantity. It’s not how many skins a team gets that is so important, but when they get them which matters more.

Win the first 13 holes (including those carryovers) and your team will be up a cool million in the match. But any combination of carrying over and winning the final five holes will result in another million, which makes it crucial to play your best golf later in the afternoon.

From a betting perspective, this makes the already capricious nature of team golf even more unpredictable. The winning team won’t necessarily be the one which plays the best golf throughout the match, but the one which makes the timeliest birdies to win the larger-priced skins.

It’s all in the nature of the game – and it’s a game you need to know.

Just as you wouldn’t make any other bet without first understanding the rules, it would be foolish to place a wager on this match without knowing how it works.

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