Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will join forces later this month in a charity skins game that will mark the return of televised PGA Tour-level golf in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But were it not for the coronavirus, it's a pairing that fans might have seen a couple weeks ago at the Zurich Classic.
McIlroy and Johnson will square off against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at Seminole Golf Club on May 17 in a charity event. Both the current and former world No. 1s live near Jupiter, Florida, and they are frequent practice partners.
"I'm happy Rory's my teammate, for sure. We play a lot of golf together," Johnson said Monday on NBC Sports' Lunch Talk Live. "Anytime you can do something as small as going to play a round of golf to raise some money for people who really need it, for coronavirus relief, it's really easy for us to do something like this."
But according to both players, there were already talks about pairing up for the PGA Tour's only team event. McIlroy has never played the Zurich Classic, but he shared that Johnson reached out after the cancellation of The Players in March to see if there was any interest in teaming up a few weeks later at TPC Louisiana.
"It was funny. DJ rang me up after The Players Championship. He was out on his boat and he said, 'Hey, if the New Orleans tournament happens, would you want to be partners?'" McIlroy said. "And I was like, 'Sure. I'm not sure if it's going to happen, but if it does, yeah, that would be fun.'"
Johnson has played the Zurich just twice, most recently in 2015 before it switched to a team format. The tournament was scheduled for April 23-26 and was canceled on March 17 because of coronavirus concerns.
"We didn't get a chance to do it there, but we're getting the chance to do it at Seminole in a couple weeks' time," McIlroy said. "And that will be fun."
Johnson is looking forward to the event, but he shared that he has hit balls only twice in the nearly seven weeks since leaving TPC Sawgrass. And while he has plenty of familiarity with Seminole, he knows that the famed Donald Ross layout will pack plenty of punch for the upcoming skins match.
"Seminole is a special place," Johnson said. "When you first get there and you look at it you think, 'OK, I should tear this place up.' And then when you get done playing, you add up your score and it's never very good."