Kuchar, Fitzpatrick, Woods and Thomas: $1 Million Challenge
The stakes are generally pretty high in Las Vegas, but we dialed up some extra excitement during the Team Troon Challenge at Rio Secco Golf Club where there was a $1 million prize on the line for executing an extraordinary golf shot to perfection. The good news was The Troon Challenge field was used to playing for this kind of cheese, but even with two Major Championships and a combined 59 professional wins, some of the world’s best players were stumped by the setup at the par-3 16th hole at Rio Secco.
Participating in the event was former world No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings and 2017 PGA Championship winner, Justin Thomas, 2019 U.S. Open Champion Gary Woodland, nine-time PGA TOUR winner, Matt Kuchar, 10-time European TOUR winner, Alex Noren, five-time European TOUR winner Matthew Fitzpatrick and two-time professional champion Cheyenne Woods. And all they had to do to take home the seven-figure payday was card an ace from 145 yards. On their first try. From a floating tee. In the middle of a lake. With cameras rolling and drones buzzing. Certainly, a tall order even for some of the greatest players in the world. Were any of the players to hole out, they would take home $500,000 and an additional $500,000 would go to a charity of their choice. Each player would get an additional three shots for a closest-to-the-pin competition for a chance at $10,000 to go to a local charity with a COVID-related issue.
“You have a lot of putts and a lot of shots on TOUR that could equate to a million dollars,” said Thomas. “but you don’t have very many singular golf shots where if you succeed, if you make it, you get a million dollars.”
Before players could attempt the extremely difficult golf shot, they first had to make sure they got to the floating tee box which presented its own challenges – especially for Mr. Kuchar who stands 6’4”.
“I got in very gracefully which would make my mother proud,” said Kuchar with a smile. “Getting on to that boat, I was afraid I wasn’t going to make that look very pretty. But I guess it went smoothly. I had a good boat driver.”
Thankfully, no players – or golf shots for that matter – ended up wet, despite a bribe from Gary Woodland who jokingly offered the boat operator $1,000 to throw Justin Thomas in the water.
As for the attempts at a million-dollar ace, unfortunately, no one holed the shot. Justin Thomas took home the Team Troon Challenge honors with a wedge shot to 4’3” and a $10,000 check for St. Jude’s Ranch in nearby Boulder City, Nevada.
“I’m very excited,” said Thomas. “It was a great shot. I’m trying to beat all the competitors and I’m very happy to get it done today and raise some money for St. Jude’s. I missed a chance to have a million dollars. I’m sorry to my foundation,” Thomas added with a chuckle.
“Of all the days with different sponsors, this was definitely the most fun,” said Kuchar. And he’s right. It was a blast. Thank you to Team Troon for all their help coordinating the event. Take a look at the video to see all the Team Troon Challenge action at Rio Secco Golf Club.