SAINT-QUENTIN-en-YVELINES, France — Michael Jordan has been a fixture at the Ryder Cup for years, and this week at Le Golf National is no exception.
Jordan, the NBA legend and a rabid golfer, spoke to the US players on Wednesday night and regaled them with how much he relished winning on the road.
“Michael was talking about how he would always play on the road against tough opponents or crowds that were always against him,’’ Brooks Koepka said. “It’s just funny hearing a different athlete’s point of view or the way they would go about it, and then you can kind of take what you want from there.
“He talked about how he didn’t hear the crowd. I took it as he couldn’t wait to shut them up, and the second he would go off … the quieter they are [and] you’re kind of laughing inside [and] you’ve done what you wanted to do. I thought that was pretty cool.’’
Rickie Fowler plays some golf with Jordan because they live near each other.
“I’m lucky to get to spend some time with MJ back home in South Florida and play a bit of golf with him, [and] as you can imagine, he’s very competitive,’’ Fowler said. “He’s special, obviously, what he did through his career: to be playing basketball, a little bit of baseball, and back to basketball.’’
Fowler said Jordan told stories “about some of the teams that were the toughest to play, the guys that he faced and who he thought were the toughest, not just as a team but the individuals that he faced and how he kind of went about home games versus away games.”
One story concerned the 1993 Finals. The Bulls failed to close out the series at home in Game 5 and had to travel to Phoenix for Game 6 and a potential Game 7.
“He said he packed one suit and one bag and told the guys, ‘We’re going there for one job, it’s to go win,’ ” Fowler recalled Jordan saying of the Bulls’ first three-peat, which of course they finished in that Game 6. “It’s fun to have the chance to be around guys like him, guys that were very successful and guys that compete at a very high level.’’
US rookie Bryson DeChambeau made it clear there’s no love between the teams during Ryder Cup week, even among players who are normally friends.
“There will be none,” DeChambeau said. “It’s USA against Europe out here. We’re going to try and do our absolute best to keep the Cup.’’
If you’re waiting for a lot of birdies and eagles this week, don’t hold your breath. Le Golf National has been set up like a US Open with narrow fairways and high rough. It’s as if the powers-that-be allowed the USGA to come in and set the place up. Expect a lot of grinding for pars to win holes.
“I don’t think you’ll go anywhere else where you’ll see as many fist-pump pars as you’ll see this week,’’ Jordan Spieth said. “I don’t think there will be as many roars [as usual for birdies]. There were a lot of putts made at Hazeltine [in 2016] from anywhere from 6 to 30 feet and that was really exciting.
“But this is a unique and exciting test for us players. It may not be as exciting for the fans that are there watching.’’
Justin Thomas, who has been nursing a mild wrist injury, was asked if he was up to playing the maximum five matches this week.
“Could I play five matches? I’d play six if I could,’’ Thomas said. “The wrist, it’s fine. It’s something to where it’s not going to get any worse. It didn’t hurt last week, which was great.
At the end of the day if [Furyk] needs me to go five, I’ll go five. If he needs me to go two or three, I’ll go two or three. Whatever it is, I’ll be ready to go.’’
Webb Simpson wasn’t a member of the 2016 US Ryder Cup team, but he felt like one.
“I don’t know if I missed a shot,’’ Simpson said. “I remember being at home with my wife. The only time I might have missed a shot, maybe one of my kids got in the way of the TV, but we watched everything. I felt nervous watching the golf on TV for the first time ever. I wanted it so bad for the US.
“The Patrick Reed-Rory [McIlroy] match is one of those moments I’ll never forget as a follower of sports because what we were witnessing … magic moment after magic moment. I called my caddie, Paul [Tesori], and I said, ‘I know you’re watching this.’ It’s hard to explain how good it was.’’