<h3timberlake back in Black for golf's U.S. Open Challenge
Trash talking with Michael Jordan? Why not. Justin Timberlake does just about everything else. The songwriter, musician, actor, TV show producer and golf tournament host will this weekend face the NBA icon, two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and amateur Larry Gielbelhausen in the second U.S. Open Challenge.
Timberlake conquered the challenge to break 100 in last year’s inaugural contest at Torrey Pines in San Diego, a contest which was developed after Tiger Woods said in 2007 that no 10-handicapper could break 100 on a U.S. Open golf course. When 6-time NBA title winner Jordan agreed to play, he said, «If Justin Timberlake can break 100, I know damn well I can». In response, Timberlake told Jordan to bring his wallet.
The 18-hole, count-every-stroke round on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y., site of next week’s U.S. Open, will air June 21 from 12-1:30 p.m. ET as a lead-in to the final round of the Open.
Timberlake answered a quick nine of questions with USA TODAY’s Steve DiMeglio.
Question: With everything else that’s going on in your life — as a musician, actor, fashion designer and executive producer of new reality show The Phone — will you have enough time to get ready for this ultimate golf challenge?
Justin Timberlake: «That’s actually a legitimate concern of mine. That’s going to be the tough part — squeezing in time to practice. And you have to do that to play Bethpage, believe me. I played the (Bethpage) Black Course once, just the front nine. It’s tough, even without the tough U.S. Open setup. And it’s long. Really long. It’s going to be tough to break 100 there».
Question: Top golf coach Butch Harmon was going to be on your bag but now PGA Tour star Anthony Kim will be. Did Harmon give you a few pointers, though?
Justin Timberlake: «He told me ways to maximize my practice time: He has some stuff for me to work on. And to make everything I do in practice count. But honestly, I just have to see how fast the greens are. It comes down to a putting contest. You have to get a feel on and around the greens to have a shot in this».
Question: Last year you did break 100 in the challenge at Torrey Pines. How will that help you this year?
Justin Timberlake: «It wasn’t easy at all, I’ll tell you that, so I’ve experienced this kind of situation. I know a little bit more of what to expect. It’s really about grinding through the day. It’s more about enjoying yourself. Golf is the game where you can step on the same field as the pros and that’s one reason golf is a great sport. It’s really about enjoying yourself. If I don’t break 100 this time, I can always say I already did it».
Question: Anything else that could prove a help to you this year?
Justin Timberlake: «I have a new driver. I’ve been using the Callaway Diablo with a neutral setting. It just comes off the face so hot. It’s a more boring flight. It just moves through the air. I need the help and this is giving it to me. I’m 10 to 15 yards longer with this driver and at Bethpage, that’s huge».
Question: Although you’ve performed live in front of tens of thousands of people at a time and have made movies and albums, what kind of pressure do you feel knowing that your golf game will be nationally televised?
Justin Timberlake: «You don’t really think about that. You just kind of do well. I came up with some good shots last year. I think that was the highest score I’ve ever put on the card. It was the toughest golf I’ve ever played. It got to a point where it actually wasn’t enjoyable. It was like work. But it became fun in the end. It was just a really long day. I think it’s good for the game to see average to decent golfers go out there and play the same courses the pros play, so you get an idea how really great the professional golfers are».
Question: What’s the best score you ever put on the card?
Justin Timberlake: «I’ve shot par. I’ve shot 72 a couple of times».
Question: Your favorite courses?
Justin Timberlake: «Sentimentally I have to go with Mirimichi Golf Course (in Memphis, which Timberlake saved from foreclosure and renovated). With all the work that went into it, Torrey Pines in U.S. Open conditions was amazing. Carnoustie (site of the 2007 British Open) is an amazing course. The Old Course at St. Andrews (site of the 2010 British Open) is awesome».
Question: How jazzed will you be to play with Michael Jordan and Ben Roethlisberger?
Justin Timberlake: «Between those two you’re looking at eight (championship) rings. Ben is a great guy and so is Mike. It will be a fun round of golf. The contest winner, the amateur, is one lucky dude. I feel equally lucky to walk around with two world-class athletes. Michael was my idol when I was growing up. And he’s a cool dude. And so is Ben. I’ll be there to heckle them and to add some comedic value».
Question: And will there be any trash talking with Jordan, since he already said, «If Justin Timberlake can break 100, I know damn well I can».
Justin Timberlake: Well, he’ll surely find out if he can or not because he’s going to be playing the toughest golf of his life. Under these conditions it’s going to be very tough for him. I wish him the best. And I’ll be there with my checkbook».
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