Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Michael Jordan warm up on the driving range Thursday at Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas. (Getty Images)
Tiger Woods will be out for a while, but his buddy, Michael Jordan, is still at it.
For all his many obligations, (delivering cringe-inducing Hall of Fame speeches; running a sub-.500 NBA team), His Airness always makes time for the charity golf event that bears his name.
The 13th annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational (MJCI) kicked off yesterday at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, headlined by none other than the man himself, who pulled up to the first tee in a custom golf cart, painted a cool Carolina blue.
As ever, the tournament has drawn a mix of TV personalities and entertainers (Flex Anderson, Stuart Scott) sports-world bigwigs (Mike Piazza, Eric Dickerson, Roger Clemens, Jerome Bettis) and B-listers known mainly to those of us who spend too many evenings channel-surfing (Phil Hellmuth).
But the biggest attraction might be the course itself. Tom Fazio’s lavish feat of engineering, built for a reported $60 million dollars, is a transportive place, 20 minutes from the Strip but seemingly located on a lush tropical moon. Laced with waterfalls and lakes, planted with more than 200 varieties of trees, its sits in a giant desert dug-out, a sunken swatch of land that Fazio created by moving more than 300 million cubic yards of earth. It isn’t private, but it might as well be, with green fees priced at $500 (not including the hotel room you need at a MGM Resorts property to book a tee time in the first place). The MJCI gives the public a rare close-up of the course.
Thursday’s round, the first of four, featured a few shot-making highlights, too.
Slade Smiley, famous mostly for being the fiance of Real Housewives of Orange County star Gretchen Rossi, was announced on the first tee as “the sixth housewife.” But maybe that was an overstatement. His opening drive didn’t even make it to the ladies’ tee.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzergerald turned in a better showing, chest-bumping his teammates after draining a mid-round 35-footer. To cap off his day, Fitzgerald also sank a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-five 18th to vault his team into first place with a net score of 55.
Then there was soccer star Brandi Chastain. On her 9th hole of the day, a par-five, her second shot soared beyond the flagstick, clanked off a rake and bounced back into the hole for an improbable two.
As Michael Jordan might say: Over the green, off the grounds-keeping implement. . . nothing but net.
The crowd went wild, and Chastain pretended to remove her shirt, as she did so famously at the 1999 Women’s World Cup.
But why pretend? It’s Vegas, after all.
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