Michael Jordan still is..well…Michael Jordan.
And being Michael Jordan means adoring fans and tons of media attention wherever you go.
I got up close and personal with Michael a recent Celebrity Classic. Jordan, the man who led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association titles before retiring for good in 2003, was the biggest name on the list of luminaries that showed up for this annual event.
Any golfer worth his sand wedge knows that Jordan is a huge golf nut and a pretty good player at that. Although he always shrugged off suggestions that he hone his game and try out for the PGA’s Champions Tour (“Too much time”), Jordan says golf is the only game that he is competitive in now that he’s an elder statesman of the game he revolutionized with the Bulls.
One would have thought that Jordan could walk through crowds a little easier these days having been away from hoops for several years. But when we strolled through the hotel and then into the gaming area Michael was mobbed by admirers still attracted to perhaps the most charismatic sports figure who has ever walked this planet.
While Jordan once toyed with the above-mentioned idea of playing on the Champions Tour (he got his game down to a four handicap at one point), he says his present duties as Owner and Managing Member of Basketball Operations of the Charlotte Bobcats prevent him from playing as much golf as he would like.
An accident with a cigar cutter a few years ago permanently injured a tendon in his right index finger, which has hampered his grip and swing. Jordan has had to compensate due to the finger injury, which doesn’t allow him to bend the affected digit and prevents him from pinching down the club. He did say a resulting light grip has helped him with his putting stroke.
Work and injury aside, Jordan still finds time to play lots of golf. He hangs out on Paradise Island in the Bahamas where he has held a celebrity golf tournament that raised a half million dollars for charity. And he built a home on the Ocean Club Golf Course right by the sixth green where he is sure to spend much of his down time. Jordan has played the Ocean Course numerous times and finds the Bahamas a quiet refuge from the hectic demands of the States.
He also took a trip with 11 other people last year to Scotland and Ireland where the group played 36 holes a day and hit just about every big name layout on the two islands. He told me he is planning to go back to Europe for the next Ryder Cup and work in a few rounds in Ireland and Scotland along the way.
Jordan’s says his favorite courses in the British Isles are Waterville, St. Andrew’s, Old Head and Royal Dornach. His favorite Stateside courses? Augusta, Shadow Creek, Medinah and Pebble Beach.
Jordan and Tiger Woods have maintained a close friendship, with Jordan referring to Tiger as “my little brother.” The two talk often and Tiger offers Michael tips on his golf game. Jordan, who is playing to around a seven these days, is a member of over a dozen golf and country clubs.
If there is one aspect of his game Jordan would like to improve on it’s his tee ball. He can drive it far, but wanders off line a bit too much for his liking.
Michael says he enjoys playing the game with his two sons, Jeffrey and Marcus, both of whom are skilled young basketball players. Papa Jordan doesn’t push either game on his kids.
His favorite foursome? Former NBA star Charles Barkley, former football player Roy Green and Ahmad Rashad. He says if he had to pick four players he could join for a round it would by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Bobby Jones and Woods.
I’m sure they would be just as thrilled to be playing with Michael Jordan as he would be to tee it up with them.