Rory McIlroy believes the ‘Sunday at Seminole, with four of the top golfers in the world will superbly portray the social-distancing strengths of golf.
The World No. 1 ranked McIlroy will partner former top-ranked Dustin Johnson in an 18-hole Covid-19 $US3m charity ‘skins-like’ match against Rickie Fowler and up-and-coming youngster Matthew Wolff.
The event will not only be the first tournament since the March 12th cancellation of the Players Championship but it will the first time in over 90-years the golfing world at large will get to set eyes on Seminole Golf Club.
The course was designed in 1929 by legendary Scottish-born Donald Ross who got his first job working as a greens keeper at his beloved Royal Dornoch club in the north of Scotland, before serving an apprenticeship with Old Tom Morris in St. Andrews. In 1899, aged 27, he boarded a ship to America and stepped off with the equivalent of just $US2 to his name.
Ross passed away just under 50-years later having designed some of the greatest golf courses in the United States including now Major Championship venues such as Pinehurst #2, Oak Hill, Inverness and Oakland Hills along with the PGA Tour’s season-ending host venue at East Lake in Atlanta.
It was in 1929 that Ross was approached to design Seminole Golf Club, laid out right along Atlantic Ocean between now Jack Nicklaus Blvd and Donald Ross Road at Juno Beach in Florida.
What makes Seminole so good is the course features a number of sand dune ridges that Ross carefully brought into play with some fairways directed towards elevated green sites while others drop down from sandy peaks to flatter terrain.
Both nines set out from the clubhouse on level ground before veering into the 40-foot dune ridge that runs alongside the western edge of the property.
For the first time in near on 100-years this Ross designed course, a club that has had three U.S. Presidents along with the Duke of Windsor and golfing legends as members, will allow TV cameras onto the course for all the world to finally see with the hosting of ‘Sunday at Seminole’.
McIlroy’s not a member at Seminole, though his father is, but then McIlroy is a very good friend to Jimmy Dunne, President of the club and the Friday before last the duo joined newest member and NFL legend, Tom Brady in a friendly 18 holes.
“Seminole is a brilliant, pure golf club. That’s first and foremost. Over here in the States there are a lot of country clubs and there’s a lot that goes on outside of the golf like swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms and there is big social interaction,” said McIlroy to McKellar Golf.
“At Seminole you walk-up to the club 30-minutes before your tee-time. You hit a few balls on the range that is just 230-yards long, so I definitely can’t hit driver, nor can a few of the members.
“So, after a short warm-up, you go out and play.
“Everyone walks. There’s to motorised buggies. There are caddies so you can either carry your own bag or use a caddy. Year’s ago, Jimmy (Dunne) took out all the benches to speed-up play, so people can’t sit down.
“There’s a note of the first tee that says ‘Play good, play fast. Play bad, play faster’. So, Seminole is very proud you can get around playing a four-ball in just over three hours.
“It’s a wonderful Donald Ross design with some of the greatest green complexes in the world. It is a very cliché thing to say in golf course architecture that it is a second shot golf course but it really is.
“There is plenty of room off the tee but you really have to think about where you are going to place your ball with regards your approach shots into the greens.”
And in a first since his amateur days, Mcllroy like his three Tour colleagues, will be carrying their own golf bags, minus a few items that would normally be inside the bag at a regular tournament.
“We were going to play in carts but I was a bit against that because I thought if this was to be the first time we are showcasing golf, and trying to get out of this Covid-19 era for a first occasion, it’s a good way to show golf can socially distance with carrying your own bag,” he said.
“Also, purely for getting a bit of exercise as carrying your bag is a great way to do this in walking 18 holes so it’s healthy and good for you instead of sitting on a cart and jumping on and jumping off.
“It will be a really good image for the game seeing four Tour pros out there on Seminole carrying their own bags and just having a great time.
“So, it definitely should be a good look with golf in America a bit different from the golf we grew-up playing back in Scotland and Ireland. I’m excited to show that side of the game and maybe it will encourage a lot more people to get out onto the golf courses and carry their clubs and that can only be a good thing.
“I will take the 14 allowed clubs though I was out at Seminole last Friday but I did it all wrong as there was 18 clubs, probably two-dozen balls and there was a sweater from I don’t know where.
“I think the weather looks good for Sunday so we can take out the umbrella, pack as many balls as I need but if it gets windy out on Seminole you might need all 14 clubs so I am not going to sacrifice any of those”.
COVERAGE – TV coverage of the ‘Sunday at Seminole’ Live on SKY Sports Golf commencing at 7pm Irish time, Sunday 17th May.