Ian Poulter: The time Michael Jordan gave me a little jab

There are few things more nauseating than the sightings of Michael Jordan chomping on a huge cigar at any Ryder Cup, so it was reassuring to hear that he gets on the nerves of the players too and, in particular, Ian Poulter.

You’ll remember the Saturday night at Medinah, yes that one, well. Poulter, speaking on the Golf.com podcast, revealed that Jordan’s presence spurred him on to closing with five birdies as he and Rory McIlroy got over the line against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Cue one of the greatest comebacks in the game. And all thanks to a minor altercation with the basketball giant…

“I love basketball, so MJ being there was giving me a buzz,” Poulter said. “Then as that match was closing out, he was becoming more prominent and his position of where he was standing was becoming more and more invasive, shall I say.

“The closest he got was when he kind of gave me a little jab in the chest going from the 16th green after I’ve holed the 25-footer downhill left to right. I’m walking off the green and I just see him. He’s right in my walkway. And he just wags his finger and shakes his head as if to say, ‘You son of a… how dare you hole that putt?’ And as I was walking past him, he gives me a little jab, and I’m saying to myself, ‘You know, you’re going to have to hit me harder than that.'”

No wait, the best bit is still to come…

Poulter then seemed to get more angry with every word: “I was trying to stick it to everyone but it was like, how dare he be in my space, how dare he be in my zone, how dare he be on my court, giving me shit? So I’m like, ‘OK, if that’s how you want to play it, this is what you’re going to get.'”

Stick that in your cigar and smoke it, MJ.

Jack’s still got it

Jack Nicklaus

Playing in Ernie Els’ autism fundraiser last week Jack Nicklaus, now 77, managed to get in the prizes after beating his age by six shots.

The 18-time major governor shot a 71 at the Old Palm GC to help his team into second spot.

“Just when I was getting my handicap up there (we’re not sure what he was playing off), I had to go and not only shoot just my second round under 80 since November, but better my age by six shots with a 71,” Nicklaus said. “But seriously, it was a great day for raising needed money for the incredible work that my friends Ernie and Liezl Els do to bring attention and support for the estimated 1 in 68 children in the US with autism. I just don’t recall getting a trophy this big for any second-place finishes in my career!”

Par 3 no longer a free for all

The Masters Par 3

The Par 3 contest at the Masters is being streamlined this year with former major and US Amateur champions not being allowed to take part in the Wednesday jamboree or play practice rounds, according to an Associated Press report.

Up until this year those ‘honorary invitees’ would tee it up in the Par 3 or join their compatriots in practice rounds but the club have now changed the rules.

“It was my favourite day of the year,” former Open champion Ian Baker-Finch said.

Two-time US Open Curtis Strange could see the thinking behind the move though.

“We had our time, and now it’s their time,” Strange said. “I think it’s extremely nice that we’re invited to come back with your spouse. It’s been nice for these guys who want to hit balls and play practice rounds. But times change. My sense is that the Par 3 was getting a little bit crowded and taking a little bit too long, I think that’s fine.”

But before we all feel too sorry for the major greats they will continue to receive two clubhouse badges, a $1,000 honorarium (another word for a payment) and a gift.

Nothing has been said yet about the prospect of wives, girlfriends and parents shanking one into the drink at the 9th before Little Johnny holes out, via daddy’s foot, up ahead on the green.

Nice Seve touch from the Tour

Good news – the European Tour’s Players’ Player of the Year has been renamed the Seve Ballesteros Award. Bizarrely the award has only been around since 2008. The winners’ names – Padraig Harrington (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Rory McIlroy (2011, 2014 and 2015), Luke Donald (2012) and Henrik Stenson (2013 and 2016) – are inscribed around the outer circle of an image of the great man which is all part of a silver and gold plate.

Around the central image is a quote from the Tour’s founding father John Jacobs OBE, who died in January: “Seve’s supreme talent, flair and passion for golf inspired millions around the world.”

Stenson will be the first recipient of the award, which will be handed out at Wentworth.

Ballesteros would have celebrated his 60th birthday on Masters Sunday, April 9.

Business as usual for Aunty at Augusta

The BBC’s coverage of the Masters will turn 50 next month and will continue in its diluted form – highlights of the opening two rounds before live coverage of the weekend rounds. Radio 5 Live will also feature commentary of all four days.

A bland statement then followed with words like ‘commitment’ in it…