By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- For the record, Luke Donald generally gives Michael Jordan six strokes a side when the two tee it up at The Bear's Club down in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"And that's usually not enough for him," the Englishman says with a smile.
Donald has known the NBA-legend-turned-voracious-golfer for several years. He's had a home base in Chicago for the past 15 years after electing to attend Northwestern in 1997. The two first met in the Windy City, where Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA titles, but their friendship has deepened in recent years.
"We live very close to each other now in Florida and play some golf together," Donald said. "His fiancée and my wife are good friends and we hang out a bit. It's great just to be around someone that was arguably the greatest of all time in his sport. Just to see how he reacts, his demeanor, see his attitude towards things.
"It's been nice just to spend a little bit of time with him."
Donald, who is making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut this week at the Northern Trust Open, knows a thing or two about being the best in his game, as well. He spent 56 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world and now clocks in at No. 3.
Donald certainly is showing few signs of rust this week at Riviera, where he finished second in 2010 and third in 2008. He made seven birdies in a round of 66 on Friday that pulled him within two strokes of Sang-moon Bae's lead.
"Happy with my score, obviously coming off a pretty good break, you never know with how you're going to deal with being back in competition again but certainly a big improvement today, ball striking wise and my short game has been very sharp," Donald said. "I've been excited about that. It's been a big key to my score so far, and, yeah, excited to be in the mix again."
As the questions about Jordan persisted in his post-round press conference, Donald smiled and was quick to point out that he "was in no way working with Michael." But he does relish the opportunity to pick the brain of the NBA star he remembers watching back home in England -- "he was clutch in every sitation," Donald says.
And the best advice Jordan has ever given him? It's common sense, more than anything.
"Most things he's said is play with what you can control," Donald said. "Don't worry about trying to hit the ball far. You're one of the best short game players; just concentrate on that. Nothing too out of the ordinary."