Sunday September 24, 2006
He is considered one of the greatest to ever play his sport, and certainly one of the most clutch performers. And he was standing around the tee box at The K Club, never too far from Jim Furyk.
Michael Jordan is becoming a regular visitor at the Ryder Cup.
The former Chicago Bulls star spent most of his day following Woods, a close friend and kindred spirit. Jordan referred to the Ryder Cup as “like the Olympics'' for Woods, although golf's No. 1 player hardly has been part of a Dream Team.
“He tries real hard. He wants to be a great leader. He wants to play well,'' Jordan said. “People want to make excuses for him not playing well, but he never makes excuses. He values this competition.''
Jordan, allowed inside the ropes with a TV pass, picked up Woods as his morning fourball match made the turn. Woods had struggled, but then made consecutive birdies to stake he and Furyk to a lead they never gave up.
“It doesn't take much to get him going,'' Jordan said. “He was off to a slow start, but that doesn't stop him. It's hard to break his spirit. He's been there many times.''
The players weren't the only players who showed some nerves on the first tee.
Ivor Robson, the baritone Brit who for years has served as the official starter of the British Open, was on the first tee at The K Club when he cleared his throat and announced the first session of matches as foursomes.
Oops. The first round was fourballs.
“It even got to Ivor,'' Colin Montgomerie said of the pressure. “That shows you what it felt like.''
The pressure also got to Tiger Woods. He took a divot with his fairway metal and hooked his opening shot into a pond.
Bookmakers have shortened the odds on Europe winning the Ryder Cup to 4-9 after Ian Woosnam's team finished the opening day with a 5-3 lead over the United States. That compares with 5-6 before a ball was hit.
American odds went up from 11-10 to 21-10.
Punters also believe Sergio Garcia will be the star of this Ryder Cup, installing him at 6-1 to finish with a perfect record. – AP