By Jack Bantock, CNN
That is, if European captain Luke Donald is to be believed, after the Englishman revealed he met the NBA icon for dinner a few weeks ago.
“He tipped the Europeans to win. Take whatever you want out of that one,” Donald told The Guardian.
“He is a good friend. He would be very supportive of me having a great experience. I think, ultimately, he wants the US to win.”
Jordan’s obsession with golf, and the Ryder Cup, is a matter of public record. Opened in 2019, his golf club, The Grove XXIII in Hobe Sound, Florida, is the meticulously constructed embodiment of his passion for the game and his own private golf sanctuary.
It has hosted some of the American stars teeing it up at Marco Simone Golf Club this week, including Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.
The duo are making their sixth and fourth appearances respectively at the biennial tournament in Rome, and Jordan has had a front row seat at all of their previous outings – and beyond.
“His Airness” has boasted perfect attendance at the Ryder Cup since making his debut as a spectator at Valderrama, Spain, in 1997, regularly spotted lauding or taunting players depending on their allegiance.
“He’s their biggest cheerleader and their biggest fan. He loves being there,” Jon Miller, longtime friend of Jordan and the man who helped him attend his first Ryder Cup, told Golf Digest in 2021.
“This is his special time. I don’t think there’s anything he loves – other than his family and his kids and stuff like that – that he cares about as much as this event.”
The streak ends
Jordan vowed that he would “never” miss another Ryder Cup, according to Miller, but that 12-event streak is set to be broken on Friday.
Donald said that he would not be behind the ropes at Marco Simone as “something had come up.”
It could well mean Jordan misses seeing something he has never before witnessed: Team USA tasting victory on European soil. Despite enjoying a triumph of historic proportions at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in 2021, captain Zach Johnson and his 12-man American team cross the Atlantic seeking to end a miserable 30-year barren away run.
Not since 1993 has the US returned home with the trophy, when Tom Watson steered his charges to a 15-13 win over Bernard Gallacher’s European side at The Belfry in Warwickshire.
It’s a pressure Jordan would have undoubtedly enjoyed. Discussing his love for the Ryder Cup in a 2021 interview with current NBA great Steph Curry, Jordan admitted he would have preferred playing amid the hostility of a European setting.
“I love playing on the road. It seems as though your concentration level is much better,” he told the Golden State Warriors star, also renowned for his love of golf.
“You know you’re not expected to win so you can have the opportunity to prove the unknown. A lot of times when you play at home, you let your hair down, you get relaxed, you see more friends and family, you gotta worry about tickets and so many other different things.
“I always loved playing on the road because it minimized my thought process and I could focus on my craft. I would imagine if I was playing in the Ryder Cup, I would much rather play in Europe than play at home.”
Whether Jordan would actually be willing to tee it up however, is another question entirely.
“I stay in my lane,” Jordan laughed. “I don’t have the skillset to put myself in that environment.
“Now, if you tell me I’ve got a basketball in my hand, now that’s a different story. But if I had a golf club in my hand, there’s no way I can get comfortable to hit a 50-yard or 100-yard shot, not with all those people watching.”
Johnson, who suffered defeat three times on European turf as a player, is as acutely aware of Team USA’s travel struggles as any, but believes his side can finally stop the rot come Sunday.
“The European teams have been very stout, very good, very deep, and this year is no different,” the US captain told reporters Monday.
“It’s just difficult. I know what history says. I’m very aware of that. But at the same time, I can speak confidently and, talking to my team, these guys are ready and want to embrace that difficulty.
“The teams of the past are teams of the past. This is a new team with a new opportunity.”
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