Justin Timberlake noticed my hand was shaking when he came in for the fist pound on the tee box of the par-3 17th at Edgewood Tahoe. He’d just played hole Nos. 15 and 16 during a Wednesday practice round at the American Century Championship, and he knew I was nervous to join him in front of GOLF.com cameras. That’s when he suggested we scramble.
You see, Justin is highly competitive – he wants to be the best, no matter the situation. But he also wants to keep the mood fun, no matter the situation. And a scramble format, in that moment, meant I could breathe.
The tee shot was 165 yards at high altitude, which adjusts to about 155 “normal” yards. That’s a 9-iron for Justin, a 5-iron for me. Let’s go.
We both hit our tee shots straight but a touch short, landing in a greenside bunker. Justin threw on his shades, and I was able to pepper him with questions as we walked up to the green. He revealed that he has eagled all four par-5s at Augusta National, and that he mirrors the tempo of his golf swing to music. (“I always think of golf as a waltz – they say ‘1-2-3,’ ‘1-2-3.’”)
After we hit our bunker shots, Justin explained that his ideal golf playlist is one that jumps from genre to genre.
“My playlists have everything from Sinatra to Lil Baby,” he said.
I also asked Justin about the Jordan 11s he was wearing. He owns two of them – the only two in existence. “One to rock and one to stock,” he said. The colorway of the shoe is inspired by the colors of Big Creek Golf Club, near Memphis, where he hit his first shot. And 3M reflective film replaces the patent leather found on a typical Jordan 11, creating a more matte look. They’re insane.
I drained the eight-foot par putt and congratulated my partner. He continued onto the 18th tee with comedian Colin Jost and Kansas City Chiefs superstars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. I stayed back and realized I’d just played one of the most fun holes of my 23-year golf life.
That shaky fist turned into a confident smile after a couple of solid shots and easy conversation.