It’s no secret Michael Jordan is one of the most intense, competitive athletes in sports history, and we’ve heard several anecdotes to back this up, both on the court and on the links. Jordan’s also been a long-time presence around the U.S. squad during Ryder Cups and Presidents Cup, and he was even named an honorary captain by Fred Couples for the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park in San Francisco.
Six-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan joined this week’s Subpar Podcast and explained what it was like having Jordan around those team events, a conversation that started when Subpar co-host Colt Knost brought up a story he heard from the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla. Mahan’s caddie at the time, John Wood, wanted Mahan to hit a 4-iron into the middle of a green on one hole. Mahan hit a 3-iron instead and stuffed it to three feet.
“Rumor is,” Knost said, “you walked off the tee and told John, ‘There’s no way I’m not going at that pin. MJ is on the tee.'”
The group laughed, but Mahan said it’s a different feeling when Jordan’s lurking.
“It’s so surreal when he’s around,” Mahan said. “He kind of sucks the air out of the room. You kind of have to impress him, right? How many opportunities do you have to do that?”
Mahan then brought up a story from the 2009 Presidents Cup, the one where Jordan was honorary captain. Mahan was playing singles versus Camilo Villegas and said he conceded a short putt to Villegas early in the match.
“You know, you are kind of nice at that point, so I gave him a putt,” Mahan said. “I think I was 1 down through three or something. So I was walking off, and MJ just looks at me, like intense, like super intense, like he was playing or something. And he’s like, ‘Don’t give him that s—! Don’t give him that s—!’ And slapped me on the ass.”
Turning to Wood, his caddie, a few minutes later, Mahan said, “That was terrifying and awesome at the same time. I’m like, we can’t lose this. We can’t lose this match. I’m not going back to that clubhouse and having to look at him as just a straight loser. We can’t do it, we gotta find a way to win, man.”
Luckily, they did. Mahan closed out Villegas 2 and 1, and the Americas won the event 19.5 to 14.5. You can listen to Mahan’s complete Subpar episode below.