The golf may not have been the best any of these four have ever played, but the vibe was terrific as Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama teed it up at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Japan for The Challenge: Japan Skins on Monday.
Day walked away the winner as he took eight skins (on three separate holes won) worth $210,000. In addition to winning the third hole of the event, Day took four skins at the 17th and then also won the 18th hole, which was worth one $100,000 skin.
“I haven’t actually watched a skins game before,” Day said after the match. “Apparently, Tiger has played six skins matches himself, and he hasn’t won one yet, so I am one up on him, which is good! This is nice. It was clean, within the game, and we had fun out there. Hopefully, I get the invite back next year.”
I’m sure he will. This foursome was a good group to play the inaugural event. Matsuyama was obviously the home favorite and Woods is Woods, but McIlroy is perfect in these settings and Day brings a little seriousness when it’s time to get serious. That made for a good feel throughout the festivities.
Here are three other takeaways I had from following the event.
1. Challenge holes are the best: You know what’s interesting as hell? Four of the best players in the world playing a hole with one club. That’s what happened on the 14th on Monday. Day ended up winning the hole after getting out of a bunker with a 6-iron, but what I really wanted to see was Rory try and go 5-wood-5-wood here like he wanted to.
2. Four better than two: This was the right number of competitors. Last year’s Woods-Phil Mickelson match over Thanksgiving didn’t work as it should have because neither golfer was playing well. That’s probably more a function of their age and skill level at the time than anything, but you wouldn’t run into those same issues if you had four or more guys playing. Not that the golf was tremendous on Monday, but I think we kind of forget how bad it was for stretches in Las Vegas last year.
3. Players trying different things: This is tangentially related to No. 1, but I’m endlessly fascinated when golfers are able to do stuff with a golf club that I would never even imagine. Other than Mickelson, most won’t try high-risk shots in competition so events like this allow us to see just how talented they truly are as golfers.