Sobel: Pros and Cons for Each Player in Sunday’s TaylorMade Driving Relief Skins Match

Credit:

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Johnson

May 16, 2020, 10:47 PM EDT

We’ve already analyzed the scoring details, the course breakdown, the weather and the betting prices, now it’s time to examine the pros and cons of the four players competing in this Sunday’s TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match at Seminole GC.

By now, you know the names: Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are facing off against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a match which will raise more than $3 million for COVID-19 relief efforts.

What can we expect from each player? What are their positives and negatives? Let’s break ‘em all down.


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Rory McIlroy

Pros: Well, he’s Rory Freakin’ McIlroy, how’s that for a pro? The world’s No. 1-ranked player was living up to that status before the PGA Tour was suspended, finishing top-five in all four starts as he was revving up to peak for the major championships.

As if Rory couldn’t blindly attack any golf course anyway, he should be fairly familiar with Seminole; his father, Gerry, is a member and plays here all the time – and yes, the son has joined him on more than a few of those occasions, too.

Cons: There aren’t too many cons for a guy like McIlroy, whose ability to make birdies in bunches should be a perfect fit for this format. Here’s one, though: He’s been doing a lot of podcasting lately.

Which leads to another: He’s been doing that, because he really hasn’t been practicing much, saying this week that after this match he’ll start gearing up for three straight starts once the season restarts next month.

Quote: “I haven’t really started in earnest to work. It’s been nice to get on the golf course and not think of anything technical and just go and play. That’s been nice to get back out there.”

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Dustin Johnson

Pros: Not to be too repetitive here, but he’s Dustin Freakin’ Johnson. OK, maybe that doesn’t have quite the same stature as being McIlroy, however DJ is easily one of the game’s most talented players – a prodigious driver of the golf ball and a consistent winner.

Like his partner, he hasn’t played much golf lately, but did report that in his first round back last Sunday, he birdied his opening hole.

Cons: Prior to the suspension of the schedule, Johnson wasn’t exactly bringing his A-game to competitive events. In four PGA Tour starts this year, he finished 48th-10th-32nd-8th, though he was runner up at the Saudi International.

Dating back to last year, he’s now played a dozen consecutive events on his home circuit without a single top-five result, which marks a lengthy drought for a player with his pedigree.

Quote: “I just didn’t really play any golf until Sunday. I figured I probably should play a little bit of golf before we tee it up here this Sunday. But I’ll be ready, don’t you worry.”

Rickie Fowler

Pros: Not only does Fowler own some experience on this golf course, he’s had some success over the years, teaming with Buddy Marucci to win the coveted Pro-Member at Seminole on three separate occasions.

Perhaps one reason Fowler plays so well here is that the course often has gusting breezes off the adjacent Atlantic Ocean and he happens to be one of the game’s better wind players.

Cons: With the youngster Wolff as a teammate, Fowler might have to assume the alpha male role in this partnership. He’s often had better – or at least similarly talented players – beside him in Ryder and Presidents Cup matches, which isn’t to say Wolff is dead weight by any means, but Fowler might have to be the lead dog.

There’s also the matter of, like Johnson, he was hardly playing his best golf before the break, with a T-18, T-37 and two MCs in his last four starts.

Quote: “On any given day it’s such a fine line. We’ll take the underdog spot, but basically it’s a toss-up on who’s got the hot putter, and could be just a battle throughout the day.”

Matthew Wolff

Pros: Only 21 years old, last year Wolff joined Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw as the only players to win the NCAA individual title and a PGA Tour event in the same year.

He owns immense talent, but the biggest advantage for him in this one might be an intangible: Unlike the other three, he’s playing with something to prove. Wolff is clearly the fourth Beatle in this band, the one name that casual fans might be unfamiliar with entering this match.

Cons: That intangible could also very well be a detriment. Even though he’s a PGA Tour winner, Wolff is yet to compete in a single major championship. Without any other groups in this event, this won’t be the most pressure he’s ever faced, but it might be the biggest spotlight, trying to prove himself alongside three superstars.

Course experience might be a drawback, as well; he says he’s played Seminole three times, but never with much wind attacking the course.

Quote: “I’m looking to go out there and show everyone that I can compete with all them. I think that there’s a lot of people out there that are asking why I’m in it, but I’m looking to prove to them that I can play with the best in the world.”

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