MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - He has been called the best athlete in the world yet few at this week’s Ryder Cup can tell you exactly what his job is.
Tiger Woods describes him as a “big brother” and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III says he is here to “hang out”.
It is not clear where Michael Jordan fits into the U.S. Ryder Cup effort but the former National Basketball Association (NBA) great has been a welcome fixture around the American locker room since 1995 at Rochester’s Oak Hill Country Club.
At both Ryder and Presidents Cups, Jordan’s status has fluctuated from official to honorary but despite being one of the world’s most recognisable athletes, he has kept a low-profile, routinely refusing to discuss his role.
”He just loves it,“ offered U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. ”I know there’s a lot of people in this gallery that can say the same thing but there’s very few guys that are ever called best athlete in the world that come and follow every Ryder Cup match.
”We’re going to have him hang out in the locker room. He’s just a good motivation for a lot of these guys that don’t know him.
“He doesn’t have an official role except for he’s one of our buddies and we like having him around.”
An avid golfer, Jordan has tangible links to this week’s Ryder Cup.
He is member of Medinah Country Club where the matches are being staged and was introduced to the sport by Love when both were classmates at the University of North Carolina.
In a city that was home to U.S. President Barack Obama and television titan Oprah Winfrey, Jordan may be the Windy City’s most popular figure.
A bronze statue dedicated to the man who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles stands guard outside of the United Centre but his outstretched hand holds a basketball not a golf club.
Jordan can offer little in the way of technical advice to Love’s men but it is hoped his presence will provide a symbol of sporting excellence, along with a dose of inspiration to a team that has come up short in four of the last five Ryder Cups.
Love is not the first U.S. captain to try to tap into Jordan’s championship mojo.
But on the surface Jordan does not appear to be an ideal fit for the American locker room.
Love’s mantra during the buildup to the biennial competition has been to make sure players have fun, a sentiment echoed by nearly every member of his 12-man crew.
That is in stark contrast to the ultra-competitive Jordan, whose sole objective throughout his career was to win.
Perhaps the one person who can identify with Jordan’s win at all cost philosophy is Tiger Woods, who also possesses an insatiable appetite for victory.
“This is one of the greatest athletes to ever live, and you know, he wants to be a part of golf and share with us what he’s been through,” said Woods. “For us, that’s incredible.”
It comes as no shock that Jordan and Woods would share a common bond.
Woods said he considers Jordan a big brother, a role Jordan appears to have embraced taking the 14-time major winner out on the town, not that Woods ever needed Jordan as his wingman to search out a good time.
“Well, the first time I had ever been around him, he fed me some beverages, and the next day was a little bit more difficult than I would have liked it to be,” Woods recalled. “But I still shot some really good numbers and made an eagle on the last hole to win.”
Editing by Gene Cherry