MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) – Back when they were at North Carolina, Davis Love III and Buzz Peterson would bring Peterson's roommate along whenever they'd go play golf.
Thirty years later, Michael Jordan is along for the ride once again.
Love made his old college buddy an honorary member of the American team for this week's Ryder Cup, hoping he can provide some inspiration for a U.S. team that's lost four of the past five events.
“We're going to have him in the team room if he wants to come in. Or we're going to have him hang out in the locker room,'' Love said Tuesday. “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.''
Jordan can thank Love for introducing him to what's become his second-favorite sport. When Peterson and Love played at Chapel Hill, Jordan would ride with them in the cart and keep score. It wasn't long before he was asking to hit a shot or two.
Now he's a member at Medinah – not to mention plenty of other clubs – and his love for the Ryder Cup is well-known. Jordan has attended every one since 1995, Love said, and Tiger Woods still laughs at the memory of the 6-foot-6 basketball Hall of Famer crammed into a golf cart as he followed the action at Valderrama in 1997.
But Jordan is not just another celebrity super fan (hello George Lopez and Justin Timberlake). He's one of the greatest athletes to ever play any game, and no one is as fierce a competitor.
Maybe, just maybe, some of that will rub off on the Americans.
“He has the heart, the spirit of a team player, even though, obviously, as an individual, he was an icon,'' European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. “I'm pretty sure that he will bring quite a bit to the equation on the U.S. team, without a doubt.''
Love might want to put someone else in charge of the drinks, however.
“The first time I had ever been around him, he fed me some beverages,'' Woods said, breaking into a grin as the room erupted in laughter. “The next day was a little bit more difficult than I would like it to be.''
But Jordan is a special person, Woods said, and his presence means a lot.
“To have him be a part of this, it's priceless for a lot of these guys,'' Woods said. “Because I consider him like my big brother and have gotten to know him so well over the years, I may take that for granted. But some of the other guys who don't really know Michael, I think it's a real treat for them.''
CONSPIRACY TEE-ORY: Paul Azinger had plans to move up the tees on the par-3 third hole at Valhalla, which caught Europe by surprise during the 2008 Ryder Cup.
This time, the Europeans are leaving nothing to chance.
During the first official day of practice Tuesday, they hit from the back tee on the 440-yard 11th hole. Then, vice captain Thomas Bjorn had the longer hitters stop at a forward tee that was about 350 yards away. It's a sharp dogleg to the left, and Bjorn pointed toward a tiny gap in the trees to go over on a direct line to the green. Only the front right bunker is visible.
Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia both hit big tee shots. Garcia then teed up a ball for Graeme McDowell, who would have no chance at the green. They all laughed as McDowell slightly adjusted the ball on the tee. Bjorn did the same for all the groups. Nicolas Colsaerts, perhaps the longest hitter on either team, tried to hit the green from the back tee. He smashed driver from the forward tee, too.
Maybe the preparation will pay off.
Or maybe not.
When the Americans came through, no one went to the forward tee.
UP EARLY: Pity the European who has to hit the first tee shot Friday morning.
The Ryder Cup brings the rowdiness of a football game to the most genteel pastime in sports, and no scene figures to be more raucous than the one around the first tee before the first match. Fans will be loud and boisterous and loud and enthusiastic and, have we mentioned loud?
Europe has the honors as the visitor, so one of the Europeans will have to step up, tune out the din and settle his nerves well enough to hit the first shot of the three-day competition.
“I thought my first tee shot when I played (in 2010) was very nerve-wracking, and I just can't imagine what it would be like to hit that first one,'' Peter Hanson said Tuesday.
But someone has to get things started. Whoever it is, he likely can take consolation that things won't go as badly as they did for Justin Rose at the 1997 Walker Cup, another match play event.
The Englishman didn't have the first shot of the tournament at Quaker Ridge Golf Club. Wasn't even in the first pairing. But he and Michael Brooks did have to start on No. 1 in foursomes, and Brooks was adamant he wasn't going to hit their first tee shot. That left it up to Rose, then 17 and the youngest player ever to compete in the Walker Cup.
“I hit it out of bounds,'' Rose said, smiling. “So the irony was … he had to then step up and hit the provisional, so he was hitting off the first tee. So I kind of enjoyed that.''
Rose and Brooks lost the match, 5 and 4. The Americans won that Walker Cup in a rout, 18-6.
NICE GESTURE: Davis Love III sure knows how to be a good host.
In addition to the traditional gifts that will be exchanged between the teams at Wednesday night's dinner, the U.S. captain decided to give everyone involved in the Ryder Cup – Americans and Europeans both – a commemorative yardage book. Harvey Penick's famous advice to “Take Dead Aim'' is inscribed at the top of the Americans' book, while the Europeans have the same silhouette of Seve Ballesteros that is on their golf bags.
All of the books have a drawing of half of the Ryder Cup, and the full cup is revealed when the book is held up to their counterpart's.
“It's going to be pretty cool,'' Love said Tuesday. “If I take my book and put it with (European vice captain) Darren Clarke's book, it matches up and makes a cup. That's what it's all about, we respect them and they respect us and, come Friday morning to Sunday night, we're going to have a lot of fun competing.''
It's a far cry from some other Ryder Cups, when the event was portrayed as a war or battle between Europe and the United States. Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal were dubbed the “Spanish Armada'' for their ruthless dominance. The 1991 event at Kiawah Island is better known as the “War by the Shore,'' and captain Corey Pavin came in for heavy criticism two years ago after he brought in a National Guard officer to speak to the U.S. team.
But there will be no warmongering from Love. Far from it. He never misses an opportunity to talk about his respect for the event or his friendship with Olazabal, his European counterpart.
“This is not a war. It's a golf match,'' Love said. “A golf match that's grown a little bit since they started it, but it continues to be a friendly golf match.''