• Welcome, but no cigar: After seeing a picture of cigar-smoking U.S. assistant captain Michael Jordan in a local newspaper, San Francisco city officials are asking Jordan not to smoke cigars at the Presidents Cup and violate the city’s ban on smoking on public golf courses.
Now the question is, Will Jordan comply or will he smoke away and pay the $100 fines?
Will he be Dirty Air Jordan or Clean Air Jordan?
• Tiger Woods and Ryo Ishikawa are paired against each other Thursday in opening foursomes. I think I’ve already heard a camera click.
Or a hundred.
• The San Francisco Zoo is a few blocks from Harding Park. But that zoo doesn’t have Woods-Ishikawa and the paparazzi trail.
• Watching Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan sitting next to each other at a Wednesday news conference, I couldn’t help but think, “Do they have the same mother or the same father?”
• Ernie Els requested slumping Adam Scott as a partner, and he got him. You want to learn how to swing, watch the action of Els and Scott. But I’m not so sure they’ll handle Hunter Mahan-Sean O’Hair.
They do have putting at this tournament.
• Speaking of inconsistent putting, Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby are paired together (against Lucas Glover-Stewart Cink). There’s potential for Singh-Allenby to miss a few short putts.
As with passing an accident scene, be prepared to turn your head away.
• On a more serious note, the Season of the Heavy Heart continues. This has been nothing if not a year of loss, and we’re not talking about Kenny Perry at the Masters or Phil Mickelson and David Duval at the U.S. Open or Tom Watson at the British or Woods at the PGA.
We’re talking real life. Chris Smith lost his wife to a car accident. Ken Green lost his brother, girlfriend, dog and leg after a tire blew. Phil Mickelson missed several weeks because his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer. Then there were the passings of Jonathan Byrd’s father, Skip Kendall’s mother, Paul Goydos’ ex-wife and, last week, Perry’s mother.
International captain Greg Norman came to the Presidents Cup just days after undergoing shoulder surgery and announcing his separation from Chris Evert, his wife of 15 months.
The matches should serve as a welcome diversion for Perry and Norman. Once again, golf rescues the mind.
• Dave Stockton, the two-time PGA champion and 1991 Ryder Cup captain, helped Phil Mickelson reclaim his putting stroke. Scheduled to arrive here Wednesday, Stockton got the left-hander to widen his stance and move his hands forward and the ball back, among other things.
Stockton told me he was delighted when he saw Mickelson look at the hole for 6-8 seconds before putting during his Tour Championship victory.
“We line up with our optics,” Stockton said. “The biggest thing is to focus on the target and not your hands or the ball. I’m into optics and visualization. I want people to see the hole. My biggest thing with my students is to figure out how their optics work. I don’t think there’s a stroke for everybody, but everybody is different optically.”
Stockton strongly advises to have enough loft on your putter.
“If you don’t have enough loft, you can’t put your hands ahead,” he said. “And if you don’t put your hands ahead, they’re not in position to go to the hole.”
• Sean O’Hair doesn’t need an instructor; he needs a money manager. He keeps losing dough during first-tee negotiations. First against his buddies back home before the Tour Championship. This week, he “lost a lot of money” to Jordan in practice.
“I’m probably the only player in golf history that it has actually cost money to play in this event,” O’Hair said. “I’ve lost a lot of money to (Jordan) the last couple of days. His swing isn’t the prettiest thing, but he knows where it’s going.”
O’Hair gave Jordan 12 strokes in a Monday match at Harding Park. O’Hair also lost a wager at 16 the next day. Wednesday, he referred to Jordan’s alleged 8 handicap as a “crock.”
“But it was a lot of fun and worth the money,” O’Hair said. “It’s a memory I’ll have all my life and tell my grandkids about.”
There’s one thing he might leave out. According to Hunter Mahan, Jordan said, “I’ve got a Barcalounger chair in Sean’s head, and I own him.”
• O’Hair on Jordan’s influence regarding belief and a positive attitude: “I’ll take him over any psychologist any day.”
Sorry, Dr. Bob.
• The United States not only leads the series 5-1-1, but the Yanks are 4-0 in this country, winning by an average of almost six points per.
Which means, if you were to decode the intelligence inside Camp Ponte Vedra, you’d likely find Camp leaders secretly rooting for an International victory.
It’s always harder to sell a ticket to a foregone conclusion.
• Though the Internationals should be more motivated, their task won’t be easy, largely because of putting. After checking and rechecking the first-day matchups, I kept seeing a 4-2 U.S. lead.
But then that matters as much as a bubblegum cigar would to Michael Jordan.