M.J.'s Ready For The Golf Digest
U.S. Open Challenge. Are You?

January 21, 2009

To enter the 2009 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, click here to submit your six-word entry on why you should represent all average American golfers, playing Bethpage Black in June under U.S. Open conditions along with three celebrities.

By Scott Smith, USGA

Michael Jordan said if Justin Timberlake can break 100, he knows he can. (Courtesy Golf Digest)

Golf and celebrities go together like … well, Hope and Crosby. Whether it's at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am that rose from Bing Crosby's old clambake or the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs, golf fans are accustomed to seeing the famous and fortunate among amateur golfers teeing it up on TV. That amateurs and professionals can share a playing field, if not the exact same tee box, is one of the things that make golf uniquely appealing.

Until the inaugural Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge at Torrey Pines this past June, the only way an amateur could get on a golf course set up for a national championship was to play his way in. That's what made the telecast of the first Challenge from Torrey Pines last June so special. And when Justin Timberlake, Matt Lauer and Tony Romo joined contest winner John Atkinson for 18 holes on the South Course the Friday before the 108 th U.S. Open Championship began, they were not engaged in any old best-ball celebrity appearance. These were golfers , counting every stroke, playing under USGA rules.

After all, the four men had agreed to put their games on display and take the challenge laid down by Tiger Woods himself: That a 10-handicapper couldn't break 100 on a course set up for the U.S. Open, playing from the championship tees. Dallas quarterback Romo, a bit of a ringer with a 2.2 USGA Handicap Index, shot an 84. Lauer, a 6.2, scored 100 on the button; Timberlake, a 6.0 handicapper, met Tiger's challenge (sort of) with a 98. Not as accustomed to the limelight as his fellow-competitors, Atkinson (an 8.1) started strong with four straight bogeys before finishing in 114 strokes.

That was then, this is now: The 2009 U.S. Open Challenge will be played at the 7,429-yard Black Course at Bethpage State Park in New York. The first of the three celebrities is already in: basketball legend Michael Jordan. M.J., who sports a 1.4 Handicap Index and who will have pro star Fred Couples on his bag, is looking to shoot 85 or better. While he wasn't required to submit a six-word entry, the response he gave Golf Digest could suffice: "I'm not going to be embarrassed."

Golf Digest reports that Jordan has never played a course under major-championship conditions, but he has played many of golf's great courses, from the back tees. "If I shoot anything surprisingly good, it'll only help my confidence," he said. "And if I shoot anything over 100, I might as well put my game in the bag. If Justin Timberlake can break 100, I know damn well I can."

Stumped for a six-word entry of your own? That last statement might make it past the judges at Golf Digest , which is orchestrating the sign-up and selection process. For sure, Michael wouldn't mind. After all, he's already in. And besides, not only could M.J. score when the pressure was on, he was also pretty good at handing out assists…

To sign up for the Challenge, click here . The deadline for entries is Jan. 31, 2009.

  





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