GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Ever the prankster, Novak Djokovic walked out onto the first tee for the Ryder Cup All-Star match with a tennis racket in his hand and pretended to take a swing at his golf ball.
“It actually would be better for me,” the 24-time Grand Slam champion said Wednesday before going back to his bag and pulling out his driver.
Turns out he knows how to use a golf club, too.
Djokovic drove his tee shot down the right side of the fairway into the first cut, hit his second shot onto the green within 18 feet and left his birdie putt just short of the hole for a gimme and a par 4.
While Djokovic did land in the knee-high rough at one point during the seven-hole exhibition — prompting onlookers to wonder whether he might grab one of the two tennis rackets in his golf bag again — his highlight came on the reachable par-4 16th when he drove the green. He celebrated the shot like Cristiano Ronaldo by leaping and swiveling with outstretched arms.
“Obviously I am much more comfortable hitting a tennis ball with my racket but I don’t think I did too bad today,” Djokovic said.
Before his shots, Djokovic repeatedly went in and out of his set-up position, kind of like the way he often bounces the ball countless times before the toss for his serve in tennis.
Soccer stars Andriy Shevchenko and Gareth Bale also participated in the All-Star event, as well as Formula One driver Carlos Sainz.
Djokovic plans to return to the Marco Simone club outside Rome for the start of the Ryder Cup on Friday.
“I have to experience this unique atmosphere. At 7 a.m. on Friday, I hear it is this incredible noise and something that is quite unique to experience,” he said.
A Serbian, Djokovic has ties to team Europe.
“I’ve been friends with Rory McIlroy for more than 10 years, since when he was engaged to the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki,” Djokovic said. “So I follow him and actually I follow everyone. But he’s already a friend and I’m rooting for him particularly, and obviously Europe.”
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf