TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match predictions: Picking winners, MVPs and more
The TaylorMade Driving Relief charity skins match featuring Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson versus Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff tees off at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday live on NBC. What do you need to know? Our staff breaks it down.
Who wins (i.e. earns more money) and why? McIlroy and Johnson or Fowler and Wolff?
Sean Zak, senior editor (@Sean_Zak): I’ll take the obvious team — Rory and DJ. Both are absolute birdie (and eagle) machines. There will be eagles on Seminole. Perhaps a lot of eagles. Gimme the long bombers to make them.
Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): Rory and DJ and it’s not a particularly hard call. World No. 1 and 5 vs. No. 27 and 110 — who picked these teams anyway?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@Alan_Shipnuck): I don’t know, Rory went nearly two months without touching a club. Wolff has the most to prove and Rickie has been playing 36 a day, or so it seems on social media, so I like the underdogs.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): Any of these guys can go on a scorching stretch at any time, so this could just as easily be a blitz in Rickie and Wolff’s favor. I’m going with the underdogs, especially if you’re giving me Vegas odds.
Who will be the MVP (both as a player and entertainer), and if you were drafting partners, in which order would you select these four?
Zak: DJ! The guy is an absolute machine who barely needs practice to dial it in. Could Rory be a bit rusty? That’s my only question.
Melton: As a player, gotta say Rory. The man was on an absolute tear for the past year before the pandemic hit. It might be low-hanging fruit to choose the top-ranked player in the world, but it’s hard to pick anyone over him. As an entertainer … Rickie? The man has a brand to polish, after all. What better time than when he’s mic’d up for 18 holes.
Shipnuck: Golf-wise, all four are capable of lighting it up, so who knows? But there is a serious personality deficit with this group. Despite his flashy clothes, Rickie is actually quiet and mild-mannered. So is Wolff. Like Forrest Gump, DJ can occasionally surprise with accidentally funny or profound thoughts, but we know how laconic he is. Rory is the only live wire in this crew and he’s going to have to chirp a lot to add any entertainment value.
Sens: I like Wolff as the MVP on the course. Beware the guy who most people don’t think stands a chance. For entertainment, Rory. He’s smart, funny and rarely hesitates to speak his mind.
What kind of mid-round challenge or format tweak would you most want to see?
Zak: The one-club challenge from the Japan Skins game was one of the most entertaining parts of that overnight event. Here’s hoping the players in Florida can get a bit more creative than Tiger and the crew were.
Melton: I’d like to see the teams change throughout the round. Let’s see each player paired with a different partner every six holes. It’d be fun to see how the team dynamics play out with the different pairings while also restoring some competitive balance.
Shipnuck: Nuttin’! We’re so starved for golf I want to see the real thing. Save the hijinks for the Match II, at which the more outrageous the better.
Sens: Each guy plays a hole while trying to imitate one of the other guy’s swings.
What’s one reason why this will be better than Tiger/Phil/Brady/Manning the following Sunday and one reason why it won’t be?
Zak: Well, it’ll have four elite players trying to drop haymakers on each other. There shall be minimal laying up, and when you get everyone into that mentality it’s fun as hell.
Melton: A reason it’ll be better than the other match is that it’s first to air. Fans are craving live sports, so even if it is an exhibition, it’s sure to draw eyeballs. Maybe that mystique will wear off before the next match. As far as why it won’t be, well, it just doesn’t have the star power. Sure, Rory and the gang are big in the golf world, but Tiger, Phil, Brady and Manning are big in any sports ecosystem.
Shipnuck: The Seminole factor looms large — it has so much mystique and will be a star in its own right. But Tiger & Co. have soooo much more starpower and personality, that has to be more fun. Right? Right?!
Sens: The Seminole factor is indeed huge, though I’m less interested in the mystique than I am in seeing how its defenses hold up. Maybe I’m jaded, but I’ve never found celebrity golf all that compelling, and Brady and Manning don’t change that for me. But I’m sure some of the smack talk will be fun. And the fact that Phil and Tiger are doing it for good reasons this time around is all the more cause to tune in and root for its success.