News & Opinion

Captain’s choice: Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy get top votes

Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy
Rickie Fowler (left) and Rory McIlroy will square off Sunday as televised golf returns in the form of a 4-man skins match to benefit coronavirus relief.

Given a pick for partner among the 4 contestants in Sunday’s return of televised golf, John Hawkins would take Fowler for his aggressiveness and clutch putting, but Mike Purkey would select McIlroy for his driving and ability to make birdies in bunches

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Of the four players participating in Sunday’s charity match at Seminole Golf Club, which one would you choose as your partner: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler or Matthew Wolff?

Hawk’s take: The mere challenge of facing McIlroy and Johnson, whom I consider to be the two most talented players in the world, is enough to lure me into picking Fowler, but it’s not the only reason. In a team skins format such as this one, it’s never a bad idea to form an alliance with the best putter in the group. Fowler may not win very often, but he’s clearly better on the greens than his two opponents, both of whom would have seven or eight majors apiece if they were as dependable from inside 20 feet as is Li’l Rickie.

My partner’s shortcomings on the PGA Tour (five career victories) often can be traced to his aggressive style of play, but Fowler’s pin-firing tendencies won’t hurt us a bit against these two galoots. McIlroy and Johnson both hit the ball as far as they want to, so I’m giving my man the green light on every approach inside 200 yards. Hitting our second shots first can work to our advantage. If we create birdie opportunities and capitalize early, the Dynamic Duo might start to feel a bit of pressure. Even at a harmless little hit-and-giggle.

I get the sense that Fowler was the guy behind this whole project, so he’ll be amped up and eager to play well. You always want a partner working on a full tank of motivation, so with apologies to Wolff, I’m taking Rickie and preparing myself for some giant-killing. There’s one catch: I’ll need at least five strokes a side.

Purk’s take: It didn’t take me long to figure out which of this foursome I’d want for my partner. Dustin Johnson wouldn’t say two words, Rickie Fowler doesn’t make nearly as many putts as everybody thinks he does, and, Lord, I couldn’t go all 18 watching Matthew Wolff’s swing. I wouldn’t be able to draw it back after that.

No, give me Rory McIlroy every time. Never mind that he’s the No. 1 player in the world. (That did enter into my thinking.) But throughout the bag, he just might be the most talented player in the game. I could watch McIlroy hit balls on the range for hours. And he’s a streaky putter, which is what you want in a partner. Get him to hole the first one early, and he can make birdies in bunches. Plus, he’s smart and funny, and it would be a joy to spend four hours with him inside the ropes.

For my money, he’s the best driver in the game, and it’s a wonder to behold. And it’s not that I care that he’d hit it 100 past me. I’d be playing tees at least 75 yards in front of his. So, maybe I could stay within 30. Maybe.

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