PGA Skins Game: Betting Guide for Rory/Dustin vs. Rickie/Wolff
In what will be the first televised live sporting event on U.S. soil in nearly two months that does not feature hand-to-hand combat, golf fans will be treated to the TaylorMade Driving Relief Skins Game on Sunday, May 17.
Last week, we dove into the course and contestants. Since then FanDuel Sportsbook has dutifully posted odds for the match, with Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson (-240) favored over Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff (+180).
McIlroy and Johnson have pedigree that far exceeds their opponents. Each are major champions and current or former World No. 1 players, whereas Fowler's claim to fame is the 2015 PLAYERS Championship and Wolff was on his way to the NCAA Individual Championship this time last year. Wolff also earned his first Tour win last year at the inaugural 3M Open, but going up against 38 combined Tour victories makes the 21-year-old's resume pale in comparison.
The scoring format will not be like a typical stroke play event. For the unfamiliar, a skins game format means that the teams will compete for the best score on each hole. The team that wins the hole will earn a "skin," which in this case will take the form of a donation to the charity that particular team is playing for. If the two teams tie a hole, the skin is carried over and the next hole is worth double. If that hole is tied, the next is worth triple, and so on.
The first 6 holes carrying a $50,000 value, the following 10 holes a $100,000 value, and big pay days on the last two holes to make sure no lead is insurmountable heading down the home stretch.
Additional prize money will be awarded for birdies, eagles, and double eagles, as well as long drive challenges that we may as well add to the haul for the American Nurses Foundation (Rory and DJ's charity) right now.
The team with the most cash collected will be the victor.
The skins game rewards aggression, opportunism, and performance under pressure. After a few consecutive draws, a five foot putt could be worth a half a million dollars. Even playing for charity, the competitive fire each player has will spike the adrenaline if they are given the chance to earn that kind of cash.
Course: Seminole Golf Club
Distance: 6,836 yards
The host venue is the historic Seminole Golf Club, commonly considered one of the greatest courses in the country despite the fact that it is also one of the most exclusive. This event will be Seminole's televised debut. While the yardage might not seem too intimidating for PGA Tour pros, the course hugs the Atlantic Ocean and coastal winds can wreak havoc either by redirecting balls in flight or rolling quality tee shots off the fairway. Over 70 bunkers will welcome such errant shots.
We can expect Rory and DJ to play to their strengths and to try to turn this track into a wedge-fest. But one false move can spell disaster, and it's not so easy to let 'em rip when three or four skins are on the line.
The sparks should fly immediately with two short par 4s and a par 5 to kick things off. A birdie on the opening hole won't guarantee a skin, and we could well see the first two holes carry over and have a triple value on the par 5 third that will dare both sides to try for eagle. Two long par 3s and another par 5 going out will be ones to watch, but the most exciting stretch could come in the middle of the back nine. The 170-yard 13th plays as the easiest hole on the course for members, and it is followed by the rare feature of back-to-back par 5s.
The 17th plays as one of the easiest holes on the course for members, a 175-yard par 3 that hugs the Atlantic. Easy access to the beach informed the architecture -- the fairway has so many bunkers it appears to have more sand than grass.
The 18th stays along the coast, a 417-yard par 4 that is likewise surrounded by sand traps both along the fairway and around the green. If conditions get gusty, we could be in for a wild finish.
The Tale of the Tape
From a statistics standpoint, we'll focus on strokes gained: off the tee, strokes gained: approach, birdies or better gained, performance in the wind, and strokes gained: putting on bermudagrass. Here's how the foursome stacks up. Statistics are from Fantasy National Golf Club and are each golfer's rank on the entire Tour in the last 12 months of play (March 13, 2019 through March 12, 2020).
|Statistic||Rory McIlroy||Dustin Johnson||Rickie Fowler||Matthew Wolff|
|Strokes Gained: Off the Tee||1st||6th||60th||48th|
|Strokes Gained: Approach||8th||71st||87th||125th|
|Birdies or Better Gained||1st||13th||64th||83rd|
|Performance in the Wind||1st||12th||13th||129th|
|Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda)||76th||44th||23rd||104th|
Keep in mind, Wolff has been on Tour only since last summer. We use a longer timeframe to get a sense of long-term form, but it's no surprise that the one golfer who wasn't even a pro a year ago lags behind among the game's giants. Wolff showed in college that he relished the competition, and simply being included in this type of event is a testament to his potential. Vegas certainly doesn't think Fowler and Wolff will get rolled.
Proclamations of McIlroy's dominance are not necessary here. Simply put: he's been the best golfer in the world over the past 15 months.
Rory and Johnson are also the two best par 5 players, each ranking 9th in par 5 eagles for the 2019-2020 season. Fowler and Wolff, on the other hand, are among several players tied at 72nd in par 5 eagles.
It is hard to not lean toward the favorite. Rory and DJ are more talented, more accomplished, and more experienced than their opponents. Even with a huge sticker on the last two skins and wide variance in potential outcomes, backing the favorite is the right play. Wolff is an unknown commodity, and Fowler's biggest weapon, his putter, is far less consistent than McIlroy and DJ's elite ballstriking.