Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson help raise US$5.5m in charity golf match

A tie-break win for world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and teammate Dustin Johnson at the Driving Relief two-on-two charity skins match yesterday morning (Singapore time) injected suspense to a course absent of fans in the Covid-19 era.

Wearing microphones that captured their smack talk and frustrations, caddie-less competitors McIlroy and Johnson faced off against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff.

The players carried their own clubs and adhered to social distancing procedures after undergoing a battery of tests and screenings.

Eager golf fans tuned in for one of the rare few live televised events, and were treated to a bit of mild trash talk early on, as McIlroy teased his 21-year-old opponent Wolff after sinking a putt for a par four on the second hole.

"I think you forget I've won two FedEx Cups that totalled at US$25 million (S$35.6m)," said McIlroy.

"Doesn't faze me, youngster."

That bravado was eventually tempered, however, as Fowler's seven birdies put pressure on the world No. 1 and Johnson, the heavily favoured pair who boast five Major titles between them.

The competition came down to a closest-to-the-hole tiebreak, in which McIlroy clinched the victory despite an admirable 120-yard wedge shot from Wolff, letting out a whoop and offering his teammate an "air-five".

Raising more than US$5.5m through sponsors and donations for Covid-19 relief, the competition quickly trended on social media, as golf-starved fans revelled in seeing their favourite players compete in unique circumstances.

US President Donald Trump dialled in to the broadcast to applaud the event, saying that live sports are good for the collective psyche.

"We want to get it back to where it was - we want big, big stadiums loaded with people," Mr Trump said. - REUTERS