Jordan puts on a show during his practice round
Tribune sports editor
STATELINE – Whenever Michael Jordan tees it up at the American Century Championship, anything can happen.
Spectators will ask for autographs just about any time, except when the five-time NBA most valuable player is in the middle of his backswing.
Jordan wasn’t signing autographs during his first practice round on Wednesday afternoon, but that didn’t prevent one fan from a little creative art to procure one.
Garderville’s Kristen Gingrich presented perhaps a novel request to Jordan as he was walking off the sixth green with a cigar between his lips. Gingrich revealed a tatoo of Jordan on the lower part of her left leg and asked “His Airness” if he could apply his signature to the $500 artwork.
“I know that hurt,” replied Jordan as he strolled to the seventh tee.
Not satisfied Gingrich asked Jordan’s playing partner, Ahmad Rashad, if Jordan should have given her the autograph.
“I think you were really drunk to have that put on your leg,” Rashad said.
Jordan interacted with the fans and continually picked on NBC golf analyst Mark Rolfing for some of his faux pas on the greens.
After Rolfing missed the line and left a putt woefully short on the eighth green, Jordan told him, “Look which way the water is,” meaning Lake Tahoe.
Rolfing did the opposite on No. 9 when his downhill putt slid off the green, leaving him a 20-footer coming back. Jordan responded by pointing to Heavenly Ski Resort. “It was a sign – down the mountain.”
Rolfing finally jabbed back at Jordan when M.J. sliced his tee shot behind some pine trees on the 11th hole.
“Nice to see that your swing is back,” he said.
Jordan wasn’t pleased with the way he was hitting the ball, but he did hit several spectacular shots and displayed a nice touch around the greens. Hitting out of the right rough on No. 2, Jordan’s approach shot landed on the top shelf of the green and then trickled down to within four feet of the cup.
“This if for you kids,” Jordan told a group of Lake Tahoe Boys and Girls Club members before he struck the shot.
Jordan rolled in the birdie putt and told Rolfing, “Draw it up on the card,” as he walked off the green with his arm around NBC’s on-the-course reporter.
The six-time NBA champion’s tee shot on the par-3 seventh hole landed left of the green, but Jordan grazed the cup with his chip shot and finished with a par. He also got up and down for par from the rough on the par-4 sixth.
Although Jordan didn’t sign autographs between holes like many players did during the practice round, most of his fans weren’t disappointed. They adjusted by taking pictures of him and listening to his playful banter.
“I can’t complain. On one of the holes he shook my hand and I’ve been able to talk to him,” said Anthony Irwin of Yorba Linda, Calif., who was wearing a No. 23 North Carolina Tar Heels jersey.